Pitcher Samantha Harting, a sophomore from Pillager, returns to the Central Lakes College Raiders fast-pitch softball team from her 19-win season last spring.
But she’s the only pitcher on the roster and one of just three sophomores anchoring the young Raiders squad.
The Raiders are inexperienced but athletic, with nine promising freshmen taking up their first season of college ball. Their first tests are this weekend with games against Hibbing, Itasca, and Mesabi Range on Friday, all at the Irish Sports Dome in Rosemount, and a doubleheader at St. Cloud Saturday.
Last year, Harting worked more than 200 innings on the mound during a 20-15 season in which the Raiders won 13 of 20 Northern Division games. Her record was 19-14.
“Sam was our starting pitcher, a real workhorse,” said CLC coach Greg Medeck. “We are expecting her to again handle those duties.”
Also back from last year’s team is Heather Hejhal of Verndale, an infielder who played much of the time with a cast on her injured throwing hand.
“We’re hoping for her to bounce back after an injury plagued season,” said Medeck, in his third year as head coach with a 47-31 record.
Rebecca Anderson of Cherry is a sophomore outfielder with second-team all-division credentials from last year with the Hibbing Cardinals.
“She will definitely anchor things for us in center field,” Medeck said.
Medeck added that ‘there is a great deal of talent in our first-year players. I really like how things are coming together in practice, and I believe the girls are working into their positions well.
“I believe we will be a well-balanced team. The conference is always challenging, but I feel like we have made good progress over the last couple seasons. Hopefully, this will be the year in which we take that next step.”
Top freshmen include infielders Kaylie Hanson of Pillager, Hayley Hornick of New Ulm, and Jenni Smolke of Brainerd, and catcher Carlie Sweet of Brainerd.
Despite their youth, the players have athleticism and familiarity with college-level competition. Hornick, Sweet, infielder Kaylie Hanson of Pillager and outfielders Alanna Hansen of Brainerd and Samantha Heagerty of Laporte all were members of the 2011 CLC volleyball team.
Other freshmen include infielder Lena Montano of Aitkin, a member of the 2011-12 CLC women’s basketball team; Desirae Guscette of Belle Plaine; and infielder/outfielder Nicole Marcy of Pillager.
Medeck believes he has a team of good position players who may be strong at the plate as well.
“If we stay healthy and develop as a team, this should be a fun group to watch,” he said. “Experienced pitching and solid defense should keep us in each game. Our success will likely be determined by our ability to swing the bat.”
2, Hayley Hornick, New Ulm, IF/OF, FR
3, Rebecca Anderson, Cherry, OF, SO
4, Samantha Heagerty, Laporte, OF, FR
5, Samantha Harting Pillager, P, SO
7, Jenni Smolke, Brainerd, IF, FR
8, Carlie Sweet, Brainerd, C, FR
11, Lena Montano, Aitkin, IF, FR
12, Desirae Guscette, Belle Plaine, IF, FR
13, Heather Hejhal, Verndale, IF, SO
15, Alanna Hansen, Brainerd, OF, FR
20, Kaylie Hanson, Pillager, IF, FR
21, Nicole Marcy, Pillager, IF/OF, FR
Head coach: Greg Medeck
Assistant coach: Alison LeBlanc