Champlin Park vs.

Park Center

4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 18

Champlin Park finished last season one win away from its first state tournament appearance while Park Center finished with a big fat zero in the win column.

This spring, both Northwest Suburban Conference teams are fighting to put last year in their rearview mirrors — and this matchup could have a lot to say about how both teams remember 2019.

Curt Cardinal, a Brooklyn Park resident who coached Holy Angels to the Class 3A state tournament last spring, is the new Pirates coach. Hoping to change the team's culture, Cardinal brought in Nicola Tade, who pitched the Pirates to Class 2A state titles in 2010 and 2011, as an assistant coach.

Cardinal also encouraged the return of senior pitcher Lexi Colbert, who did not play as a junior. Senior Kiara Hurt (.375 BA in 2018), who plays first base and catcher, and junior shortstop Hannah Ruohonen (.371 BA) are welcome leaders on a young team.

With an 11-1 victory on April 8 over St. Paul Central and a 17-2 victory over Robbinsdale Armstrong on April 9, the change has suited the Pirates (2-0, 1-0) well so far.

Champlin Park, swept by Centennial in the Class 4A, Section 5 title game last season, will rely on leaders such as senior Holly Blaska, a Star Tribune All-Metro first-team player headed Miami University in the fall, and junior Piper Otto to help buoy a team that was disappointed in last season's ending.

It was pitching depth that hurt the Rebels last spring in the section tournament. The return of junior Molly Trullinger and the addition of freshman Riley Leonhardt gives Woodley and the Rebels a stronger pitching corps this season.