The Blonde Bombers are gone, but a new-look Forest Lake squad nevertheless carries high expectations into a telling early season matchup on Friday with perennial power Park of Cottage Grove.
Megan Baniecke and Sheridan Glashan combined for 12 home runs and 55 RBI last year in leading Forest Lake to the Class 4A consolation championship. That kind of production is hard to replace.
But Rangers coach Sean Hall said this year's team can manufacture runs in other ways. "We lost a lot of power in the middle of the lineup," Hall said. "But we've got a ton of speed."
Sophomore Logan Anderson, juniors Autumn Reid, Kasan Rindels and Katie Gemuenden and senior Lindsey Johnson will be counted on to put the ball in play, run the bases and play strong defense behind senior pitcher Claire Bakkestuen.
"They're all playing very dominant right now," Hall said.
Bakkestuen steps into the role as ace for the Rangers (0-0, 0-0) after compiling a 7-0 record with a 0.99 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings as the backup to Baniecke last season.
Park, too, lost some heavy hitters from a team that reached the Class 4A state championship game last spring, notably infielders Delaney Young and Shelby Schabacker. Injuries also claimed a few players coach Bob Loshek was counting on this spring.
But the Wolfpack (3-0, 1-0) return all-state outfielder Madi Meduna (.474 in 2018), and the one-two pitching punch of senior Bryanna Olson (13-0, 72 strikeouts) and Samantha Fohrman (13-0, 80 strikeouts).