By Bob San
Sun Press Newspapers
Maple Grove softball senior captains Eleanor Schutte, Erin Roehl and Sydney Cashman still remember the sting of how last season ended. The Crimson lost most of their starters from a team that took third in the state in 2015 but they exceeded expectations by making it all the way to the section championship where they lost 4-3 in eight innings to top-seeded Spring Lake Park in the deciding second game.
“We pretty much had a brand new team last year but we made it to the section final and lost to Spring Lake Park,” Schutte said.
It was a bitter defeat but the loss has spurred the Crimson to achieve great heights in 2017. The Crimson will be much better positioned to do well this season because they return just about everyone from last year.
“We only graduated two girls,” Schutte said. “We have been playing together for many years. It’s comforting to know that we won’t be a brand new team like we were last year.”
The three captains lead a veteran MG squad. Schutte is a three-year starting infielder who will play third base, Roehl is a three-year starter at short stop and Cashman is a versatile player who can fill many roles.
“Erin is a fantastic athlete with speed and power,” Koltes said. “Eleanor is a smart player and quick slap hitter. Sydney can play anywhere we need her except pitcher and she is solid.”
Junior Lauren Anderson is the returning starting pitcher. As a sophomore last year, Anderson won 12 games and gave her team a chance to win in every outing. She also plays first base.
“Lauren has become an even better pitcher and hitter,” Koltes said.
Senior centerfielder Taylor Wente is another key returner.
“Taylor is one of the best athletes I have ever been round,” Koltes said. “She is a natural and great competitor with great instincts. She is going to the U of M for women’s hockey.”
Other returning players are junior left fielder Marie Pallansch, junior infielder Sophie Zwack, junior catcher/utility Amanda Tyler and sophomore catcher/first base Sophie Culhane.
The Crimson have great depth with the addition of some talented newcomers.
Koltes looks for sophomore pitcher/infielder Jade Tomashek, a newcomer from California, to make immediate impact on varsity.
“She is a fantastic hitter and fielder who will quickly become one of the top players in the conference as well as the state,” Koltes said. “Lots of D1 and D2 schools in California have shown interest.”
Another transfer, sophomore pitcher Ava Dueck from Providence Academy, will add depth to an already strong pitching staff.
“She has played with all of our players in the youth association,” Koltes said. “She is a great hitter as well and will have her choices of colleges to play for as she develops more.”
Other newcomers are sophomore outfielder Mavis Sachs, eighth grade catcher Jenna Gruenig, ninth graders Ellie Hosmann and Nikki Roeber and sophomores Mikalyi Side and Tara Rosacker.
The Crimson are deep and talented. Koltes looks for Roehl, Tomashek, Dueck, Wente, Pallansch, Anderson and Culhane all have the abilities to be All-State caliber players.
“They all have the ability to be one of the best in the state and will give us a great core of players,” he said.
With pitching, hitting, defense, speed and experience, the Crimson are poised to improve on last year when they finished 16-10, took third in the conference and fell just short in the section.
“We want to build on last year and finish the season giving ourselves the best chance to win the section and compete at the state tournament,” he said.
The Crimson will face stiff competition from Centennial, Spring Lake Park, Elk River, Anoka, Blaine and Champlin Park in conference and sections.
Asked to name his team’s weaknesses, Koltes could not. Instead, he said: “Having kids take that next step to be even a better team and not being satisfied with what we did last year. I want them to stay motivated.”
That won’t be a problem for the Crimson.
“We have worked hard in the off season. We played throughout the summer and fall,” Cashman said. “Expectations are high. With a lot of girls back from last year we are confident.”
“No days off,” Schutte added.
“We use last year’s section loss as a motivation,” Roehl said. “We want to learn from last year and go one step further this season.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]