PLAY BALL!!

April 11

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[The national pastime arrived at the AAHS softball complex on Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately for fans looking for a parking spot, so did a middle school track meet, a freshman baseball game, and a boys tennis match.  I ended up parking in Urbank and taking an Uber to the game.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a reasonably lovely early evening – the sun was shining, the temperature was probably in the mid 50’s, and there was little wind.  The forecast for the game a few days previous was actually calling for snow.]

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[Like they say, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.]

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[Our Cards were coming off a state tournament appearance last year.  We started the year with a 1 – 6 record but by the end of said state tournament a case could be made that we were the best team in the state.  It leads to Great Expectations.]

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[The Cardinal brain trust – head coach, Randy Albers, and assistant coach, Mitch Loch. One of the things I wanted to check on immediately was whether or not McKenzie Revering would be able to play (injury rehab) and, if so, would she still be the catcher.  I was happy to see her on the field, but as the 3rd baseman with a brace on her knee.]

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[Introductions . . . the non-starters were introduced first but only one came out?  Since I’m not familiar with the players yet and can’t see the numbers, there’s going to be some guessing here.  Jazmin Steidl (8), senior?]

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[Our leadoff hitter, junior Allison O’Kane (9).  With her introduction, I knew we would have 6 players new to their positions.  Allison was the 2nd baseman last year – this year she is obviously the catcher.]

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[Batting second is senior shortstop Emma Ziegler (4), back as the starter from last season.]

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[Batting third is senor first basemen, Ellie Ronning (12), also a returnee at the position.]

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[Batting cleanup is junior centerfielder, Calley Richardson (15), the final of the 3 players returning at their same position.]

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[Batting fifth is sophomore leftfielder, Kendra Hardy (13).]

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[Batting sixth is Rev (14), moved to 3rd base from catcher.]

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[Batting seventh is junior rightfielder Taylor Breitkreutz (19).]

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[Apologies if I get the next two wrong, but they are new to me.  Batting eighth is sophomore designated player, Sydney Christenson (2) . . . ]

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[And batting ninth is junior second baseman, Lindsey Knoll (3).]

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[Pitcher freshman Ally Albers (6)]

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[Rev, Emma, Lindsey, and Ellie across the infield.  We have a new battery, and new outfielders in left and right . . . ]

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[The lack of experience at so many positions would be telling in the first inning . . . ]

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[Ally readies to pitch.]

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[Rev charges in from 3rd . . . ]

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[Calley is just a solid two-way player in center.]

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[We started in a big hole.  Have I mentioned we were playing Brainerd?  Anyway, the Warriors got 7 runs in the top of the first.  We made 4 errors.  I don’t remember us making any errors all throught the tournament last year.  But as with last year, better play will come with experience.  Anyway, Allison lead off the bottom of the first with a double to left center.  We will score runs.]

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[Emma switch hits in the second spot.  She’s fast enough to beat out bunts from the left side.]

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[Then from the 3rd spot, Ms. Ronning is simply one of the best hitters in the state.  The all-state first baseman last year was “officially” credited with being 2 – 4 in this game. Her agent should look into it.  I thought, “Huh?”  In the first inning she hit a liner sinking away from the leftfielder who had all she could do to get her glove on it.  I would have given Ellie a double.  In her last at bat, she hit a liner that almost tore the first baseman’s glove off, again finishing up with what I thought another double.  I didn’t realize not until I saw the box score in the paper this morning.  In between, she hit a two-strike grounder the middle for a single and a gapper to right center for a double.  After the game I thought it just her typical 4 for 4 game with 3 doubles?  And you’ll notice as a good hitter, she hit to all fields.]

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[And Ms. Richardson in the 4 spot gives us power following power,  Calley was 3 – 3 with a double.  The two of them will be fun to watch this year.]

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[Kendra in the 5 spot will be an interesting watch.  She has the size, and a big lefthanded spike in volleyball, to also provide power.]

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[We’ll miss Rev’s defense at catcher.  She got more comfortable at 3rd as the game wore on including a great diving play.]

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[The new ‘kids’ at the bottom stung the ball well a few times.]

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[A pretty even game after the top of the first.  The Warrior’s pitcher had good stuff, but I thought we hit her pretty well.]

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[Back to Allison at the top of the lineup.]

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[Zig motoring to 1st.  She almost beat out a routine sacrific bunt.]

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[But the bunt was later as she’s obviously still batting here.]

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[Being so far behind so early gave us the “opportunity” to try different combinations. Four different players pitched, so it was nice to see we have depth at that position. And of course everybody else moved around with each pitching change.  I believe this is what happened last year until everyone found a position that was in their comfort zone – then our defense was outstanding.]

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[This Kendra’s turn on the mound (or the “flat”).

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[Then Ellie at bat again.]

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[Followed by Calley.  Since they were both on base every at bat, they both reached safely here.]

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[Must be Kendra . . . ]

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[Because Rev was up next.]

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[I somehow missed Taylor the first time through the lineup.  She just following in the same path as the other hockey defenseman (or one time defenseman) – Allison, Rev, and Calley.]

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[Zig pitched a little, then Calley here finished up.]

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[Thoughts:  The final score was 14 – 6.  We’ll figure it out.  The whole team seemed a bit hestitant about throwing the ball.  The Warriors were running and taking extra bases on us all game.  Outfielders can’t dawdle – get it and throw it – and the infielders have to let them know where.  The outfielders often seemed confused about where they should be throwing, and the infielders some times weren’t on their base for a throw?  Throwing from the catcher’s spot will be an issue – Warrior runners took off for the next base on every pitch, often without even a throw being attempted.  And when they were doing it the top of the 7th, I, as I am wont to do, gave their coaches a stern talking to about running with a 9-run lead in the last inning (they pretended not to hear me).  We’ll score, we just have to prevent the opposition from getting easy runs.]

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Sweat dries, blood clots, and bones heal.  Suck it up, Princess.  This is softball.  ~ Unknown

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