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State softball preview

By Jason Gonzalez, Star Tribune, 06/04/14, 10:01PM CDT


A look ahead to the two-day tournament that begins Thursday in North Mankato.

At Bielenberg Sports Complex in Woodbury, New Life Academy catcher Malorie Giere(10) made contact at bat against Holy Family in a game.]richard.tsong-taatarii/rtsong-taatarii@startribune.com ORG XMIT: MIN1405070939346307

St. Anthony Village took the alternate route to Caswell Park in North Mankato for the softball state tournament that begins Thursday. The Huskies played their way through the losers’ bracket of the Class 2A, Section 4 playoffs to earn their seventh state appearance.

The extended seven-game journey featured three elimination-game victories and two late-inning rallies. It’s the first time the Huskies advanced to state through the losers’ bracket.

“I guess they can handle the pressure,” said St. Anthony coach Lamar Brendemuehl, whose team has 11 seniors, more than he’s ever had. “I think it helps [going into state] to know you’re not out of it. … I feel like they don’t worry too much when they get their backs up against the wall.”

Seniors Kelly Lawson and Rosie Robberstad have a combined 76 hits and 75 RBI and lead a veteran group that finished as state consolation champions last season.

The Huskies open against first-time state qualifier Le Sueur-Henderson at 9 a.m. Thursday

Class 3A rematch

Orono hasn’t forgotten about its bumpy start. The Spartans were 3-2 two weeks into the season after a 1-0 loss to Lakeville South.

The challenging, early-season schedule, however, fueled a 15-1 run and set up a chance at redemption. Orono will try to spoil Lakeville South’s state tournament debut in their quarterfinal matchup at 9 a.m.

“That was early in the season, and facing some stiff competition helps us set the stage for the work that you need to do for the rest of the season,” Orono coach Mike Carter said. “Our girls look at that as a challenge, and I think we’ve done well to prepare for that.”

Lakeville South had the opposite reaction after its home victory against Orono. The Cougars closed out the regular season 6-3 and lost two of their past three games.

The Spartans have seven seniors playing in their third consecutive state tournament. Senior Madison Arends leads the team with 22 hits and 44 RBI.

Youthful development

New Life Academy continues to build success around its youth. The Eagles extend annual invitations to junior high-aged student-athletes for an opportunity to dress for the Class 1A state tournament.

The experience pays off years down the road.

“Just the fact that they get a chance to be around the hotel and fan base really helps them,” New Life Academy coach Mick Ramey said. “They’re familiar with the atmosphere, so when they come back they aren’t awestruck.”

Standout juniors Malorie Giere and Valerie Hohol, who have been around the state tournament since they were seventh- and eighth-graders, lead the team offensively and defensively. Giere is hitting .507 with 28 RBI. Hohol is 16-0 with 128 strikeouts and a 1.63 ERA.

The Eagles will make their ninth consecutive state tournament appearance against Norman County at 1 p.m. Ramey said he intends to use several of his junior high invitees in various roles throughout the tournament.

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