COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Raiders ready for season to start
It was a successful rookie campaign for Greg Medeck.
The head coach of the Central Lakes College Raiders softball team is hoping for bigger and better things entering his second season.
The Raiders open their season Thursday with three games at the Irish Dome in Rosemount. CLC will play three more games Friday.
“We’ve been practicing in the gym at 6:30 in the morning for the last four weeks so we’re excited to see another team and face some live hitting and see how we stack up,” said Medeck. “Usually in the preseason you can see some different teams you normally don’t face, but that’s not the case this year. We’re going up against conference teams right off the bat.
“We’ll get to see what we going up against right away, but we’re looking forward to going out and hitting and playing a few games.”
The Raiders return six players from last year’s squad that finished second in the Northern Division with a 14-6 record. CLC finished with an overall record of 27-16 and was the Region 13 B runner-up.
Returning after a one-year absence is sophomore shortstop Stephanie Neugebauer. The former Brainerd Warrior missed last season with a knee injury, but will play a key role in the Raiders defense.
“Her return is pretty big because she can do everything,” said Medeck. “She solidifies the middle of our defense. She has good range and a strong arm. She’s the leader of our defense, plus, she’s got a great bat.”
The return of Dani Thiesse in left field, along with the addition of Hallsey Olson, will give the Raiders a speedy outfield. Both played their high school ball in Brainerd.
Last year, Thiesse hit .396 with 38 hits and 25 RBIs in 96 at bats.
“Dani covers a lot of ground in the outfield and on the base paths. She has great speed and is such a weapon for us on offense,” Medeck. “Olson has really good wheels, too. Her and Dani will cover a lot of ground.
“We will miss a key player in Tika Nichols. Those are big shoes to fill because she was so athletic and was our leader, but those two girls are fast, smart and knowledgeable about the game.”
Nichols led the Raiders with a .504 batting average. She had 66 hits and 28 RBIs.
Hoping to pick up some of that slack is first baseman Trisha Wippler. The Little Falls native started all of last year at first and will do so again this season. She’ll also hit in the cleanup spot. Last year she was second with a .491 average, drove in 37 runs on 53 hits.
“Trisha is our biggest power hitter,” Medeck said. “She’ll hit in our four hole and be our cleanup hitter. We’re hoping for big things from her this year. Last year she was one of the top hitters in the league. She looks like she’s right on track to repeat that this year.”
Alicia Johnson hit .446 with 26 RBIs and 41 hits. She’ll play outfield, catch and also pitch. Lindsay Fryer will start at second, but will be asked to play everywhere in the infield as well as pitch.
The main arm will belong to freshman Sam Harting of Pillager.
“In our first four weeks she’s done a nice job,” Medeck said of Harting. “She has a lot of different pitches with good control. We’ll see how successful she is this weekend.
“Lindsay and Alicia will also pitch, but Sam will be our workhorse.”
Heather Zetah will be back to run the show from her catching position. She started there all of last year. The Staples-Motley graduate hit .405 last season with 32 hits and 11 RBIs.
“She does a fantastic job of working with our pitchers,” said Medeck. “She’ll work with Sam this year and call the game for us. She is such a knowledgeable player. She is a really smart player.”
Heather Hejhal is the early favorite for the third base spot. The Verndale graduate will compete with Ashley Zimmerman of Pequot Lakes for the remaining starting spot in the infield.
Brooke Hanson of Lake of the Woods and Katie Boody of Royalton round out the Raiders’ 12-player roster.
“We have good balance in terms of freshmen and sophomores and within our position groups,” said Medeck. “We have good leadership and I think we’re excited and motivated and confident to have a successful season, we just haven’t played yet.
“We’re still a little bit lacking in depth. We only have 12 players and we’re healthy right now, but if we get a couple of injuries that could be a problem for us. We don’t have a ton of depth in our pitching, but if Sam can stay healthy that should be a strength for us.”
Stephanie Neugebauer (Brainerd, SS),
Heather Zetah (Staples-Motley, C),
Dani Thiesse (Brainerd, LF),
Lindsay Fryer (St. Francis, 2B),
Trisha Wippler (1B, Little Falls),
Alicia Johnson (OF, Verndale)
Hallsey Olson (CF, Brainerd),
Sam Harting (P, Pillager),
Brooke Hanson (OF, Lake of the Woods),
Ashley Zimmerman (3B, Pequot Lakes),
Katie Boody (INF/OF, Royalton),
Heather Hejhal (3B, Verndale)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.