Softball might be the furthermost thing from the minds of Minnesotans, but not junior college teams.
The Central Lakes College Raiders will open their season with an eight-game, five-day road trip Friday, March 9-Tuesday, March 12 at the Space Coast Spring Training complex in Florida.
The Raiders return five players from the team that finished 28-7 overall and 8-0 in the North Division before losing to Itasca 6-4 in the finals of the Region 13B Tournament.
"Lisa Kossan, Kallie Plantenberg, Sam Schimpp, Lindsay Hendrickson and Kate Olson return this year," Raiders head coach Ray Austin said. "Lisa hit over .500 last year and was an anchor for us in the middle of the field. She hits for power and average and we are looking to have her produce in an RBI spot.
"Kallie, will be one of the main pitchers this year. She has worked hard on that part of her game. She added a drop ball this year and that will help her. Sam had an arm injury most of last year that really hurt her. She looks to be healthy this year and will split time between pitching, catching and the outfield.
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- Who: Central Lakes College Raiders
- Head coach: Ray Austin, third season
- 2018 record: 8-0 North Division, 28-7 Overall
- 2018 Overall: 28-7
- Assistant coach: Ashley Erickson
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"Lindsay will be our first baseman and hit in the middle of the order. She has a lot of power and we look for big things from her. Kate is still relatively new to the sport just picking it back up last year as a freshman. She has made tremendous strides in the past year and looks to spend quite a bit of time in the outfield for us."
The Northern Division includes seven teams with Itasca and the Raiders having traditionally strong programs. They will also have a new participant in the region this year in North Dakota State College of Science.
"Coaching at a two-year school, it is so hard to know from year to year how teams are going to be," Austin said. "I rely more on the reputations of the schools. Itasca has been our Achilles heel the past two years with a solid coaching staff. They always have a gritty team. We really won't know much until we get into the season. North Dakota State College of Science will be in our region this year. They play a Division II schedule, abide by DII rules, for the most part, all year, but at the end of the year play in our region. They are a solid team and any team that plays them in the region will have their hands full."
Austin gave his players credit for working hard despite the persistent winter conditions. He said finally getting outside will not only be a morale boost, but a good way to gauge the early development.
Incoming freshmen this year include a few area names. Pierz's Brianna Meyer is scheduled to handle some catching duties. Brainerd's Cassidy Zontelli played a key role in the Warriors success last season and will play in the infield for the Raiders.
Verndale's Haley Youngbauer will roam the outfield and Little Falls graduate Kali Mammenga will pitch and play infield.
"We have some freshmen players that we look to make an impact right away," Austin said. "Kali Mammenga will see significant time in the circle and will bat in the middle of the lineup. Meyer receives the ball really well and has an above average arm. Youngbauer is really fast and a very instinctual outfielder. I am really excited about adding Cassidy to our middle with Kossan. We will have one of the top middle infields in the MCAC with those two."
Other newcomers include Onamia's Sydne Forbord and Brooklyn Park's Nichelle Henderson.
"Ashly Erickson also joined the coaching staff this year," Austin said. "She is a graduate of Little Falls high school and played softball at CLC and at Bemidji State. She adds a wealth of knowledge as a pitching coach. She has been working with the pitching staff in the gym and has helped all of them improve."
With most of the pieces in place, the Raiders will begin their season with an eye on returning to the regional tournament and gaining a birth in the national tournament.
"It may sound cliche but we need to stay healthy and pitch well and field well," Austin said. "We are not that deep, but I really like the core group of players and I know we will put offensive numbers on the board. An injury here and there can really set us back. Also, our pitching staff of Plantenberg, Mammenga and Schimpp will have to do what we have worked on every day, throw strikes and let our defense work. If we do that, I like our chances."
Sophomores: Lisa Kossan (Staples-Motley, infield), Kallie Plantenberg (Eden Valley-Watkins, pitcher), Lindsay Hendrickson (Menahga, infield-outfield), Kate Olson (Princeton, outfield), Nichelle Hendrickson (Brooklyn Park, infield), Sam Schimpp (Staples-Motley, catcher-outfield)
Freshmen: Brianna Meyer (Pierz, catcher), Sydney Forbord (Onamia, utility), Cassidy Zontelli (Brainerd, infield), Haley Youngbauer (Verndale, outfield), Kali Mammenga (Little Falls, pitcher)
Friday, March 8, vs. Anoka-Ramsey at Titusville, Fla. 8 a.m.
Friday, March 8, vs. Macomb Community College at Titusville, Fla. 1 p.m.
Saturday, March 9, vs. Ridgewater at Titusville, Fla. 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, March 9, vs. Bay College at Titusville, Fla 3:30 p.m.
Monday, March 11, vs. Southeastern Community College at Coach Beach, Fla. 9 a.m.
Monday, March 11, vs. Bay College at Titusville, Fla 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 12, vs. Crowder College at Cocoa Beach, Fla. 11 a.m.
Tuesday, March 12, vs. College of DuPage at Titusville, Fla 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 30, vs. Riverland at Rosemount Irish Dome 12:45 p.m.
March 30, vs. Hibbing at Rosemount Irish Dome 2:45 p.m.
March 31, vs. Northland at Rosemount Irish Dome, 7 a.m.
March 31, vs. Rochester at Rosemount Irish Dome 8:45 a.m.
March 31, vs. Rainy River at Rosemount Irish Dome 10:30 a.m.
April 10, vs. Mesabi Range (2) 3 p.m.
April 13, vs. Hibbing (2) 1 p.m.
April 14, vs. Vermilion (2) 1 p.m.
April 17, at Northland (2) 3 p.m.
April 19, at Rainy River (2) 3 p.m.
April 20, vs. Itasca (2) 1 p.m.
April 27, at Hibbing (2) 1 p.m.
April 28, at Vermilion (2) 1 p.m.
May 1, at Mesabi (2) 3 p.m.
May 4, vs. Rainy River (2) 1 p.m.
May 5, vs. Itasca (2) 1 p.m.
May 8, vs. Northland (2) 3 p.m.