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Park High School shortstop Mary Turitto. Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ * cgonzalez@startribune.com

 

Mary Turitto was asked to bunt quite a bit when she played for Park of Cottage Grove’s softball team in eighth grade. She played second base because her arm wasn’t quite strong enough to play on the left side of the infield.

As she got older, a special player started to blossom.

“By her sophomore year, she started to come out of her shell,” coach Bob Loshek said.

Turitto is now a force in all aspects of the game. She’s grown stronger and more confident. She’s hitting the ball with more authority.

On Monday, she launched a three-run homer during the Wolfpack’s doubleheader against White Bear Lake. The senior captain not only rips line drives, she rips them to the opposite field.

That fits a special criteria in Loshek’s mind.

“The definition of a power hitter in softball is if you can drive the ball the other way —with pop,” Loshek said. “Holy buckets, she has some pop. Mary drives the ball the other way very well. It’s interesting when teams want to pitch her outside. Mary just drives the ball to the right-center gap and then just runs all day.”

But she didn’t stop there. Turitto continued working on all aspects of her game. She wanted to shore up defensively, specifically her arm. Now it’s one of the best in the conference at shortstop.

Perhaps more importantly, Turitto knows the game. She knows where to be in situations and makes plays. Her work ethic has also translated into improved team defense.

“That part of Mary’s characteristics are important as well,” Loshek said. “Being the team captain, she works so hard on defense that the rest of them take it upon themselves to follow suit. We went from dropping fly balls in the outfield last year — little things that shouldn’t happen — and we’ve really cleaned it up a lot this year.”

In addition to being a standout softball player, Turitto was the leading scorer of the Wolfpack hockey team this past winter. Turitto had 24 goals and 13 assists in 26 games. She was also a standout soccer player growing up.

“Anything you watch her do, she looks very, very natural doing it,” Loshek said. “She’s a true athlete. Anything that she picks up, she can do it very well.”

With Turitto creating havoc in the leadoff spot, the Wolfpack lineup is set up for success.

Speedster Rachel Suter follows in the No. 2 slot. Sam Flack, who is hitting more than .500 this season, drives in the runs. Amber Galloway has also been racking up RBI.

Galloway, a junior, is the team’s No. 1 pitcher. She’s not overpowering, but does a very good job at managing the strike zone.

“She throws the ball in, out, throwing change-ups, mixing speeds,” Loshek said. “Being 5-foot-6, she does a very good job moving the ball around.”

The Wolfpack will need Galloway’s command and a productive offense to compete in arguably the best conference in Minnesota State High School League softball in the past decade. The Suburban East consistently has produced winners, including recent state champions in Stillwater, Hastings and perennial contender Forest Lake.

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