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Perspective hits home

05/10/2013, 5:16pm CDT
By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune

Eastview tie to Mandy Matula is helping Lightning softball players become ''better, stronger''

Eastview coach Trevor Monroe discussed strategy with, from left, Melissa Barry, Rachel Young, Hailey Monroe and Kara Sjostrom during a recent game. Submitted photo

It hasn’t all been about softball for Eastview this spring. The search for missing person Mandy Matula has hit home.

Matula graduated from Eden Prairie High School and played softball for Minnesota Duluth with Lightning assistant coach Ashley Johnson. Matula was reported missing the morning of May 2. Police and the public began searching for her that afternoon.

Lightning softball players, parents and coaches aided in the search three days later.

“It’s really an eye-opening experience for all of us,” coach Trevor Monroe said. “As a coaching staff, we talk about keeping things in perspective. We definitely are doing so at the moment.”

In addition, freshman infielder Jamie Reynolds’s older sister, Jess, has had four liver transplants and is fighting for her life. Teammates, family and friends are rallying around them.

“It’s not about softball,’’ Monroe said he’s told his team, ‘‘but about becoming better, stronger people.”

On the field, the Lightning’s players have managed to play quality softball. They began the season with five consecutive victories before running into more weather road bumps, which hindered some momentum.

Junior captain McKenzie Hanegraaf and sophomore Kerrigan Hoshaw have split most of the innings and have pitching well. Hanegraaf has been a nice surprise. She is only a few months removed from back surgery and did not play last season.

Hanegraaf, who plays first base when not pitching, is also a key in the batting order. She is hitting .522. Her 11th-inning home run beat Bloomington Jefferson 2-1 on April 29.

The lineup also features speed and some pop. Sophomore Melissa Barry has been a sparkplug in the leadoff spot. She’s moved from outfield to shortstop and has been a varsity starter since eighth grade.

“She’s a please-and-thank-you type kid and those are the student-athletes you really enjoy working with,” Monroe said.

Classmate Courtney Wissbaum is hitting .429 and plays center field. The Lightning also has a group of talented freshmen playing key roles.

Designated player Jamie Reynolds has flashed power, hitting .350 with one homer and four runs-batted-in. Hailey Monroe has been solid in left field while batting .333 with six RBI. Sam Gall, also a part of the freshman crop, suffered a knee injury.

Sophomore third baseman Julia Luciano looks poised to break out this season. Leadership from seniors Marissa Leners, Christie Seaberg, Rachel Young and Emily Larson has helped steer the team to a successful season so far.

It won’t be easy to maintain as the schedule races toward sections. Lakeville North, Bloomington Jefferson, Eagan, Burnsville, Prior Lake — top teams in the South Suburban Conference — await the Lightning.

“Lakeville North is the team to beat at this point, but we won’t take anyone lightly,” Trevor Monroe said.

Offseason conditioning and preparation was a big focus for this season.

“There’s two things that we can control: our attitude and how we prepare,” the coach said. “We have dedicated young athletes that just want to get the most out of this experience.”

And keep it all in perspective.

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