Those associated with the Brainerd Warriors fast-pitch softball team have had to deal with more adversity in the last eight months than some people encounter in a lifetime.
Last summer Krisjana Hartje, the Warriors' starting shortstop, was killed in an automobile accident. This winter infielder Jessie Pohlkamp's brother died in another car accident.
"Krisjana was an excellent shortstop, plus an excellent kid," Brainerd coach Janell Westphal said. "She will definitely be missed this season.
"These kids have faced one heck of a lot of adversity since last season. I have been impressed with how hard they have been working, even with the deaths."
Head coach -- Janell Westphal, second year
1999 record -- 12-2 in CLC, 17-5 overall
Returning starters -- Seniors Breanna Holland (first base), Julie Moran (second base), Cassey Veith (outfield-pitcher), Alissa Anderson (pitcher).
Assistant coaches -- Margie Schaefer, Leesha Turcotte, Sharon Severson
(5 p.m. games unless noted.)
18-ST. CLOUD APOLLO
20-at Little Falls
29-at Detroit Lakes Tourney, TBA
2-at St. Cloud Tech (2), 4 p.m.
11-at St. Cloud Apollo
15-at Sauk Rapids, 4:30 p.m.
9-10 State, TBA
The Warriors have also had to deal with injuries. Starting first baseman Breanna Holland, a 4-year starter, underwent major knee surgery last fall, missed the entire basketball season, and hasn't yet fully recovered.
"Breanna has a strength test April 19," Westphal said. "If she's at 85 percent she can play. Her leadership ability is great and she's an excellent first baseman. Hitting-wise she was at the top in all categories."
Holland, one of three returning starters, hit .414 last year with team highs in RBI (25) and doubles (7). She scored 24 runs, had 29 hits, slammed five triples, walked 10 times and struck out just four times.
Senior Julie Moran, who plays second base, hit .391 with 14 RBI, 27 hits and 24 runs. She had four doubles, two triples, a home run, eight walks and struck out just four times.
"Stat-wise, Julie was near the top," Westphal said. "She does an excellent job controlling the infield, talking, and as far as making cuts."
The other returning starter is senior Cassey Veith, who will play center field and pitch. Last season Veith batted .338 with 23 RBI, 20 runs and 23 hits. She had five triples and a home run, walked 10 times and struck out just five times.
"Cassey batted cleanup most of the year," Westphal said. "She's a very strong hitter. I expect her to run the outfield this year.
"Last year she didn't pitch at all. She pitched a lot in our summer program and has been doing well inside."
Senior right-hander Alissa Anderson will likely do the majority of the pitching. In seven appearances last season she pitched 29 2/3 innings, permitted 29 hits, walked 11 and struck out six. She had a 3-1 record with a 5.03 ERA.
Anderson has been battling a back injury that requires physical therapy.
"She is a very consistent pitcher," Westphal said. "We are trying to increase her speed."
Other returning letterwinners:
Seniors -- Jamie Bjerkness (outfield), Erika Nunnink (first base-outfield), Rissa Clemens (infield), Jessica Ostergren (catcher).
Juniors -- Lindsey Thompson (outfield), Lisa Gorron (infield-outfield), Jessie Pohlkamp (infield).
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors Fran Vobejda (infield) and Janine Erickson (outfield); juniors Gina Clough (outfield) and Melynda Ringstrom (pitcher-infield); sophomores Sacha Holbrook (catcher) and Laura Clemens (pitcher); and eighth-grader Megan Arns (pitcher-infield).
Softball will play a 3-class system for the first time this season. Brainerd will be in Section 8, Class 3A, with Alexandria, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Little Falls, Moorhead, Rocori, St. Cloud Apollo and Tech, Sartell-St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Fergus Falls, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy of Fergus Falls, Goodridge, Grygla-Gatzke and Thief River Falls.
"It really doesn't affect us because we are a big school," said Westphal, whose Warriors were scheduled to open the season Saturday, April 8, with a home doubleheader against Moorhead. "All the big schools are still in the same section."
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