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Tigers swing into a new season

­MA/C-A Tiger softball senior leaders for the 2013-2014 season are (from left) Abbie Olson, Chelsey Ehleringer, Megan Gillespie, Brianna Abril, Brooke Johnson, and Nicole Strobel.

The Morris Area / Chokio - Alberta softball team started practice on Monday, March 10. Head coach Mary Holmberg will be the head coach for her 34th year and her assistant and junior varsity coach is Mary Asche.

A little history of the Tiger softball program: the Tigers have had winning season the past five seasons, including most recently a 13-9 record at the end of the 2012-2013 season.

After graduating five seniors, the Tigers still have a good group of players with varsity experience, including six seniors: catcher Brooke Johnson, center fielder Nicole Strobel, Brianna Abril who will be on the mound for the Tigers or at first base, Abbie Olson who is a utility player, catching, playing first base or in the outfield, Megan Gillespie who is an outfielder and courtesy runner, and Chelsey Ehleringer who is the Tigers second baseman.

“I have a really good core of seniors coming back,” head coach Mary Holmberg said.

Along with that good core of senior leadership, MA/C-A also has 12 juniors out for softball, including Abby Daly and Kayla Pring who both saw varsity experience in the infield last season. Most of the juniors coming up were apart of the junior varsity that went 11-2 last season.

“Our juniors are really going to help out this year,” coach Holmberg added.

On the mound to start this season for the Tigers will be senior Brianna Abril and junior Kayla Pring.

“Kayla saw a pretty extensive level of pitching on JV last year,” Holmberg said. “Brianna’s a lefty, she brings a little bit of a change to the game, so we’re fortunate in that aspect. We’ll depend on those two starting at the beginning of the season. We’re also looking at working junior Lacee Maanum into the mix, too, she pitched well for JV last year. Pitching wise I think we’ll be okay.”

As of right now the varsity looks like a solid offensive threat with six seniors and a slew of juniors, plus one returning varsity seasoned sophomore in Becca Holland who played third base for the Tigers last year as a freshman. Holmberg mentions that the roster isn’t set and stone since it’s so early in the season, things can change depending on who’s excelling and doing well, plus if there are injuries throughout the season, etc.

Injuries shouldn’t be an issue this year, though, as the Tigers had 40 players come out for softball this season in grades 9-12, including 16 freshman. Holmberg is pushing for A, B, and C teams.

“Our goal is so that everybody can get some games in and get some experience,” Holmberg said. “And really to find and fill roles that are needed to play on the team. That’s the main thing, we want everybody to fit in somewhere and get playing time.”

With at least 10 seasoned varsity experienced players returning this year, coach Holmberg is optimistic about this season.

“What I am excited about is that we’re stronger hitters this year,” Holmberg said. “I’m excited about the strength of our arms, and we have a strong nucleus coming back and experience of six core seniors that will be leaders on the team. What I am really excited about is the number of girls that are out in the whole program 7-12. We have great numbers. Girls that are willing to put in the extra time, and that is always good to see in any program.”

With some outside practices already taking place, hopes are high to get started on time this year, weather permitting.

“Last season was a challenge because our first time out playing a game was April 27, so we’re hoping to start in April more,” Holmberg said. “We’ve been outside at Big cat, we’ve been outside on our own field, so we feel fortunate that we’ve at least gotten out there to start that cohesiveness between the outfield and infield.”

Coach Holmberg has many goals for the MA/C-A Tiger girls this season, including winning the Section 3AA North half of the section. Last season the Tigers placed fourth in the section tournament with hopes of repeating a final four appearance this season. Coach Holmberg added that the Tigers are really aiming at finishing top in the conference, too.

Other than the Tigers, the big conference contenders are Minnewaska, Montevideo, and Sauk Centre who all finished ahead of MA/C-A in the 2012-2013 season, so Holmberg added it will be a fun and competitive season again this year.

“Our big goal is to just keep improving every day, every game,” coach Holmberg concluded.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the season on the road since first two home games have been postponed and rescheduled to later dates. Weather permitting, the Tigers travel to Brandon-Evansville on Tuesday, April 8, BOLD on Thursday, April 10, and Benson on Friday, April 11.

Brooke Kern

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