Strength up the middle returns for Lightning
You can do all the work you want in the batting cage, but nothing compares to facing another team’s pitcher in a real softball game.
Eastview scored in the early innings and the late innings in its 11-0 season-opening victory over Andover on April 6, and new head coach Molly Kasper was happy to see the outburst.
“We put the ball in play and got some big hits from the kids in the middle of our lineup,” Kasper said. “We were really pleased. But we also know there are a lot of good pitchers in the South Suburban Conference.”
The Lightning won the state large-school championship two years ago and went 18-6 last year, with its season ending on back-to-back losses to Park of Cottage Grove and Eagan, the teams that ended up playing for the Class 4A, Section 3 championship. Then during the summer, coach Trevor Monroe resigned, primarily so he could watch his daughter Hailey – a four-year starter for Eastview – play college softball at St. Benedict’s.
Enter Kasper, Eastview’s varsity girls basketball coach for two years and a former high school softball catcher. “I’m excited,” said Kasper, who led the Lightning basketball team to state in each of her first two years as coach. “We have a young team but we have three good returning players in the middle of the field, and we have three girls who pitch year-round.”
Junior Abby Lien, who played second base for the 2015 state championship team and caught for the Lightning last season, returns behind the plate. She was an All-South Suburban Conference player last season. Grace Gall, also a junior, was the Lightning’s top pitcher last season and earned honorable mention all-conference. Angel Dye started at shortstop as an eighth-grader and could return to that position, unless she’s needed somewhere else. But she’ll be in the lineup somewhere.
Marki Sawyer, one of three seniors on the varsity roster, is expected to move from second base to third. The Lightning’s other seniors are outfielder Brittni Tonnessen and infielder Izzy Cenci.
Junior Jessi Decovich, an honorable mention all-conference player in 2016, will have her bat in the lineup. She also can play first base and pitch. Corinne Roe, also a junior, is another pitching option.
There are four ninth-graders and an eighth-grader on the roster, several of whom will be in the lineup regularly. Ninth-grader Evy Polsfuss is getting a shot at designated hitter and eighth-grader Olivia Weinberg started in center field against Andover. Ninth-graders Hannah Larson and Ashley Prissel are options in the infield.
“There are a lot of kids who have played infield, but it looks like we’ll need some outfielders,” Kasper said. “We’ll be trying different things. They graduated a lot of seniors from last year’s team, and we have some new players now. I’m a new coach. So, it’s going to take some time. We just need to give these kids some experience in game situations.”
The Lightning defeated Burnsville 5-4 on Tuesday at home but took its first loss Wednesday, falling 8-2 at Prior Lake. The team is scheduled to play at Farmington on Thursday before playing host to Shakopee at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 17.