Following a .500 season in Mike Zauhar's first year as head coach, the Brainerd Warriors fast-pitch softball team appears to possess the tools to contend this spring.
The Warriors return senior right-hander Laura Clemens, one of their top pitchers last year, and position players Jackie Sullivan, Sacha Holbrook, Sarah Johnson and Alyssa Anderson.
Brainerd also welcomes back sophomore Megan Arns, who started in Brainerd as an eighth-grader and at Pequot Lakes last season. Arns will start at shortstop and may do some pitching.
"The attitude and effort has been fantastic in practice," Zauhar said. "We're cautiously optimistic that somewhere down the line we will compete for the conference and section titles.
Head coach -- Mike Zauhar, second year
2001 record -- 7-7 in CLC, 11-11 overall
Returning starters -- Seniors Laura Clemens (pitcher), Sacha Holbrook (catcher), Sarah Johnson (infield-outfield); juniors Alyssa Anderson (infield), Jackie Sullivan (infield).
Assistant coaches -- Ty Eigner, Dan Bzdok, Keith Bartholomaus, Amy Aho (volunteer), John Ward (volunteer).
(Games 5 p.m. unless noted.)
9-at St. Cloud Tech
23-ST. CLOUD APOLLO 4 p.m.
27-at Detroit Lakes Inv. 9 a.m.
30-at Little Falls 4 p.m.
2-ST. CLOUD TECH
6-at Sauk Rapids
"The only drawback is that I believe the conference will be extremely tough this year. Rocori should be great with an all-state pitcher in Lindy Sparby. St. Cloud Tech, Alexandria, Little Falls and Sartell will all be good, but I think we'll be right in the mix, and we'll take it from there."
Clemens was 4-6 with a sparkling 1.97 ERA last season. In 71 innings she allowed 74 hits, walked 10, struck out 23 and opponents batted just .253 against her.
"She's our go-to pitcher as we speak," Zauhar said. "She had a great year last year. She's very consistent, very accurate. So far this spring she has looked very good.
"We're pleased with her work habits. We're looking for great things out of Laura. She has a great attitude and is an exceptional individual."
Junior Erin Donnelly likely will complement Clemens on the mound.
"Clemens and Donnelly will be our 1-2 pitchers to start off with," Zauhar said, "and we hope Arns helps us toward the end of the year. Megan has great speed and she's strong."
Anderson, a junior infielder, batted .395 and had an on-base percentage of .439.
"Alyssa is going to be a valuable member of our squad," Zauhar said. "She can play a number of positions, shortstop, third base, second base, and she's a great outfielder. At this point we're looking at her in all those positions.
"Her attitude has been exceptional. She's willing to do whatever it takes to help the ballclub."
Holbrook, a senior catcher, hit .255 and drove in a team-high eight runs.
"Sacha was our MVP last year," Zauhar said. "She's one of our captains. She's our sparkplug, the key to our pitching staff. She drives our pitchers pretty hard. She doesn't let them take shortcuts. She's a great leader."
Johnson, a senior infielder/outfielder, batted .207.
"Sarah's another captain," Zauhar said. "We will start her at first base. She has a great attitude, a good stick and she's powerful."
Sullivan, a junior infielder, batted .158.
"Jackie is looking good at third and second base and also can play the outfield," Zauhar said. "She hits the ball well and has an opportunity to improve on that."
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors -- Yvonne Larson, OF, captain; Katie Boran, OF; Amber Thompson, OF/INF; Karin Ludwig, OF; Stephanie Rossion, OF; Manikue Tsesnoukue, OF; Nadine Geyer, OF.
Juniors -- Hannah Impola, INF; Sarah Mogenson, OF; Emily Powers, OF; Michelle Spindler, INF; Lyndsey Travica, INF; Leigha Walters, C; Tanya Winterfeldt, OF; Alaina Kolbeck, OF; Elsie Rehberger, OF; Brooke Rollins, OF.
Sophomores -- Haley Bower, INF/OF.
Eighth-grader -- Abby Rehberger, INF-OF.
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