Last season the Central Lakes College softball team had no problem scoring runs. The Raiders led the Northern Division with 174 runs scored, an average of 5.8 runs a game as CLC finished 19-11.
With six sophomores who played big roles in the offensive output returning, the Raiders aren't expecting any dip in churning out runs.
This Raiders team should be perfectly suited for head coach Bob Sullivan's offensive philosophy that believes in aggressive base running and forcing the other team to make mistakes.
"The last thing a player should have to worry about is a coach yelling at them for striking out," said Sullivan. "We won't swing at garbage. We seem to force teams into making a lot of mistakes because of our aggressiveness. I think our offensive philosophy really lends itself to scoring runs."
CLC softball player Kayla Pohlkamp scored one of the Raiders' 174 total runs last year. Pohlkamp, along with five other sophomores, return this season to give CLC a balanced and talented team.
Sophomore catcher Leigha Walters led the Raiders last year with 30 hits and 12 stolen bases to go along with a .361 batting average. Second baseman Beth Rogge has the top returning batting average at .375 and returning shortstop Jackie Sullivan scored a team-high 32 runs.
Outfielders Elsie Rehberger and Kayla Pohlkamp also return. Rehberger led CLC with 24 RBI while Pohlkamp knocked in 20 runs.
Another title hunt
The outlook: CLC returns six sophomores, including top pitcher Amber Buttler, as the Raiders will go after their third state title in four years.
One of the biggest returnees is sophomore pitcher Amber Buttler.
The Aitkin native tossed 159 innings last year with 72 strikeouts, 66 walks and finished with a 2.64 ERA en route to a 14-9 record.
"The sophomores know the coaches and they know our style of game," said Sullivan. "We're very aggressive on the bases and we like to get in the box and swing the bat. I don't mind if they strikeout as long as they give the effort. If we can get the freshmen as comfortable as the sophomores we'll be a very good team."
Jenna Koester of Little Falls, Kristin Kapsner of Pierz and Shannon Smith of Frazee are three freshmen the Raiders are expecting good things from. Koester will use her speed to patrol the outfield while Kapsner will be able to play both the outfield and infield. Smith should be able to give Buttler a break atop the mound and eat up some innings.
Bob Sullivan's team returns six key sophomores from last year's squad.
"I think Amber is stronger and more focused than last year," Sullivan said. "But having a pitcher like Shannon, who's also able to throw well, should make Amber more comfortable and even challenger her to do better. I think they'll compliment each other very well."
One thing the entire CLC squad has bought into is to leave everything they have on the field. Sullivan feels that as long as his players give him their best they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
"My preaching has always been to put effort on the field," said Sullivan. "If we put a solid effort out on the field then we'll come out on top the majority of the time. I think the wins will take care of themselves.
"I don't think you'll see a team that puts forth as much effort as we do. It's fun to see twelve players on the same wavelength."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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