Lightning eager to show it’s better than record

Softball team struggles early as lineup changes take hold

Being 2-4 is frustrating enough, but not getting an opportunity to show they’re better than their record – that’s really annoying to Eastview’s softball players.

They hoped this would be the week they pushed their record above .500 with five conference games plus the Lightning’s annual invitational tournament Saturday at Johnny Cake Ridge Park. Instead, Eastview’s games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were rained out. Thursday’s doubleheader against Apple Valley was moved indoors to the Savage Sports Dome. It’s looking like the weather will improve in time for Saturday’s tournament.

“There probably are some people surprised that we’re 2-4,” said Lightning coach Trevor Monroe, who welcomed back many of the players from a team that was 15-6 last season. “But there hasn’t been a day where the kids didn’t come to practice with a good attitude and wanting to get better.

“We’re averaging about three or four errors a game, and that’s the difference between us being 2-4 and 4-2, or even 5-1.”

In Eastview’s last game before the latest round of wet weather moved in, the Lightning committed four errors in a 2-1 non-conference loss to Minnetonka. One of the Skippers’ runs was unearned.

Three of Eastview’s losses were by one run, and the other was by two runs.

Eastview still is trying to adjust to the loss of shortstop and leadoff hitter Melissa Barry, who is out for the spring after tearing a knee ligament during basketball season last winter. Ninth-grader Miranda Crenshaw also is out for the season because of a torn knee ligament.

Barry’s injury caused a chain reaction of lineup adjustments for Eastview. Courtney Wissbaum, a junior, became the shortstop after playing center field last season. Sophomore Sam Gall, an infielder last season, replaced Wissbaum in center.

“When you take somebody like Melissa out of the lineup, it’s going to take time to adjust,” Monroe said.

Even without Barry, the Lightning has plenty of returning talent. Junior Kerrigan Hoshaw and senior co-captain McKenzie Hanegraaf both pitched last season. Hoshaw got most of the innings during last year’s section tournament, while Hanegraaf (who will play softball at North Dakota) was at first base. Both are dangerous middle-of-the-lineup hitters. In her first 16 at-bats of the 2014 season, Hoshaw hit .563 with one home run.

When the pitching rubber was moved to 43 feet from the plate a few years ago, it became tougher for pitchers to dominate. Games became higher scoring. “It’s become more of a hitter’s game,” Monroe said. “I think it’s important for a team to have more than one pitcher.”

Junior co-captain Kara Sjostrom returns at catcher, where she has been the Lightning’s starter the last three seasons.

Julia Luciano, a junior, returned at third base. Sophomore Hailey Monroe started in left field last season and batted .342. Sophomore Jamie Reynolds can play second base and outfield; she also batted .350 last season with two homers.

Senior outfielder Katie Uittenbogaard will play softball at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., next year.

It’s a lineup capable of competing with the top teams in the South Suburban Conference, coach Monroe said – if the Lightning can clean up their fielding and get outside consistently enough for the offense to heat up.

There’s also this to consider: In six seasons as a head coach (five with Rosemount baseball and one with Eastview softball) Monroe’s teams have five top-four finishes in section tournaments.

Bloomington Jefferson, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Hermantown, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Maple Grove are the other teams scheduled for the Lightning’s tournament Saturday, with first-round play scheduled to start at 10 a.m.