Last year the Staples-Motley Cardinals advanced to their first Class 2A state softball tournament.
The year before they were close.
It's evidence of a strong program being built, one that hopes to contend for a state berth and a state title.
Junior Chelsea Einerwold knows the expectations of the team. Last year she was the designated hitter for a Cardinals team that won the Mid-State Conference, subsection and Section 6, Class 2A titles.
"Last year ignited us to where we want to be a great program," Einerwold said. "We've always been a good program, but last year put the awareness out for everyone."
Even for Einerwold, who secured the starting second base spot, it was a challenge going from just a hitter to playing defense. She has to be more focused and in the early part of the season she struggled.
"Last year as a sophomore all we had her do was hit," said Cardinals coach Bruce Onischuk. "She didn't do any fielding so she's making a huge transition. In my view she has made tremendous progress. She has work to do yet, but she's doing a good job."
Einerwold's fielding percentage is .868 and Onischuk wants it in the .900s. But he realizes most of her errors were early this season. He said she has played well since and is still learning the position.
Where Einerwold excels is at the plate.
In a 19-8 smashing of Park Rapids May 6 she went 3-for-3 with four runs. On April 30 in the Staples tournament she went 6-for-7 with three doubles, seven RBI and five runs in three victories.
In 15 games, Einerwold is hitting .452 with a .475 on-base percentage. She has six doubles, one triple, 22 runs and 18 RBI.
"When I get up there my mentality is if it's there I'm swinging at it," said Einerwold, who hits third or fourth in the Cardinals' lineup. "I'm taking my shot and I'm going to rip it out there.
"I like having people on ahead of me. I don't want to be the leadoff hitter. It's nice having people there. It's easier to have them on because then you know which spots to hit to."
Einerwold's hitting isn't what worried Onischuk. It was her defense. After 15 games, he's not worried anymore.
"Initially, she was a little unsure with ground balls," said Onischuk. "She was a little clumsy with line drives. Through her hard work and determination she is now reading the ball when it comes off the bat. She anticipates well. When she goes to field a ground ball she really does a good job of getting the glove down. Even if she fumbles with it a little she still stays with it.
"I think what has happened is she has worked so hard in practice it has become automatic for her in the game."
Other notable performances:
Golf -- Melissa Hasskamp, Aitkin, shot a 49 for medalist honors in a Great River Conference meet at Finlayson.
Val Meschke, Pequot Lakes, was medalist with an 81 at Headwaters Golf Course in Park Rapids.
Melissa Welshons, Aitkin, shot 46 for medalist honors in a Great River Conference meet at Cuyuna Country Club.
Softball -- Liza Milless, Staples-Motley, had two hits, including a home run, and scored four runs against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Tina Pohlkamp, Pierz, was 4-6 with three RBI against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
Kattie Crawford, S-M, was 5-9 with four runs and five RBI in two games against Park Rapids.
Sam Rosenthal, S-M, was 4-5 with three runs and two RBI against Park Rapids.
Track and field -- Teresa Parker, Pequot Lakes, won the shot put, discus and high jump in the TDS Telecom Invitational.
Kaitlyn Jensen, Pierz, won the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the long jump in the Section 7, Class 1A True Team meet.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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