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Photo credit to Craig Uphoff Sammi Harris
Lakeville South boasts a lot of talented softball players this spring, but it’s a bit unclear what the lineup card will read come opening day. That’s just fine with the Cougars.
Senior Sammi Harris sees lineup flexibility and can only envision positive things happening for the team this year.
“I wouldn’t call that an issue, I’d call that a strength,” Harris said. “Being able to move players around and having that versatility is a good thing for us to have as the season goes along.”
Entering her second year as head coach of the Cougars, Colleen Powers has been pleasantly surprised with her team’s progress. Her group of what she calls “blue-collared players” has taken advantage of all sorts of competitive softball opportunities throughout the offseason. And all that hard work is paying off.
The Cougars return three pitchers from last year’s team — Kylie Stober, Madeline Bianchi and Bailee Jackson — who have made considerable progress and continue to push each other in practice.
“Anytime you’re looking at success at the high school level, it has to do with some go-to kids in the circle,” Powers said.
With spin and speed, Stober likely will see the bulk of the action on the mound. She struck out 115 batters last year while posting a 3.17 earned run average. She’s not an overpowering pitcher, but she fools a lot of good hitters. Her attitude and approach makes her a feared foe.
“Nobody messes with her when she’s in the circle,” Powers said. “As far as the game of softball goes, so much of any individual player or team success is about how they approach the game. She’s a competitor.”
Offense might be a question mark. This could be a team that will have to work to manufacture runs instead of relying on star power at the plate. It will force Powers to get creative, which is a challenge she’s looking forward to.
“That’s what I love to do in the third-base coaching box,” Powers said. “I know my kids love to be a part of the strategy of the game. You can expect my kids one through nine to be stepping up at different times and in different ways. We’re going to have some fun.”
Harris, Bree Meier and Allie Kent are serving as team captains this season. Young talent is returning to the middle infield and outfield. Mariah Uphoff will be an offensive threat while playing steady defensively in the outfield. Jackson will be an asset up the middle and at the plate.
But this team will need to rely on all 10 of their starters to pull out victories this season. Nothing is set in stone and the lineup cards should prepare to be tinkered with.
After a 5-8 showing last season in the loaded South Suburban Conference, Lakeville South looks to take a leap in the standings. The Cougars felt like they lost some games they should have won last season. They will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“We can’t be caring about who wears the jersey that we’re playing,” Harris said. “We need to just stick to our Lakeville South game. On anybody’s day, it could be anybody’s game.”