By Matthew Davis
Columbia Heights has a number of juniors and seniors back this spring and could make a competitive showing in the Tri-Metro Conference and beyond.
They Hylanders went 9-13 overall and 4-5 in the conference. Experience and talent at the plate and on defense could improve those records this spring.
“Our outlook for this season is really no different than any other,” Hylanders coach Terry Olson said. “We expect to get better as the year progresses hopefully finish in the top half of the conference and possibly win a game or two in the sections.”
Columbia Heights has senior pitcher Cassidy Mason back after going 8-11 with 104 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings of action. Mason, a two-time All-Tri-Metro Conference winner, has a strong bat too a .380 career average, 85 RBI and 14 home runs.
Fourth-year starter and senior catcher Adrienne Samuels gives the Hylanders strength behind and at the plate. She has 97 career RBI, five home runs and a .367 average at the plate.
Junior short stop Kira Greenfield, a serious college softball prospect, can get the job done with her bat. She has a .312 career average and 58 runs. Her fielding makes her dangerous for base runners, posting a .980 career fielding percentage.
“Outstanding defensive player can play anywhere,” Olson said.
That includes pitching as she will get to spell Mason. Olson said Greenfield “worked extra hard this off season on pitching [and] will be expected to give us some quality innings in the circle.”
Junior Christine Erickson plays first base and a solid career fielding percentage of .965, and she can do some damage with the bat too. She has only four strikeouts in 53 career at-bats with a .250 batting average.
Sophomore Annika Olson, who moved to third base, gives the Hylanders a defensive threat at the other corner of the diamond. Olson played right field last season. She can perform at the plate too with a .305 career batting average.
Sarah Salchow, a senior center fielder, will look to step up in her third year with the program as a team captain.
“The most improved player I have ever coached,” Olson said. “She really solidifies the center field spot has excellent range takes the pressure off the other two.”
Columbia Heights doesn’t have experience everywhere in the lineup though. The Hylanders will have a seventh, eigth and ninth grader in the starting lineup.
“So if there is a weakness, it is a bit of inexperience in the starting line up,” Olson said. “I really do expect these three to improve they have a lot of athletic ability.”
Olson likes what he has seen in practices so far, building strong team chemistry. He knows that could make a difference. He said “greed bit us at the end last year” in terms of playing for individual success instead of team success.
“If we cut down on the walks and score a few more runs we might surprise a few along the way,” Olson said.
Columbia Heights lost its season opener 12-1 to Maranatha Christian Academy April 3.
Totino-Grace looks for strong showing in conference, section
Finishing on the cusp of a state tournament berth last spring, the Eagles look to make another run.
“We feel we have the team that can finish in the top four in conference,” Eagles coach Mike Sullwold said.
Getting back to the section title game and winning this time is also on Totino-Grace’s to do list. The Eagles lost the title game 2-1 to Mahtomedi in 12 innings.
Totino-Grace returns senior pitcher and NCAA Division I East Carolina commit Erin Poepping. She had a 2.15 ERA last season and 97 strikeouts. On offense, she can pose a threat with a .300 batting average.
Senior Madi Brunn returns and gives the Eagles versatility on defense. She plays second base but could play in the outfield too. She hit .295 last spring too.
Ella Ebinsteiner, a sophomore shortstop, moved over from second base. She had a solid season at the plate too in 2016 with .305 hitting, four home runs and 15 RBI.
Ebinsteiner will fill graduate Julia Sullwold’s role at short stop. Sullwold, a four-year starter, now plays college softball at Iowa Lakes Community College.
Totino-Grace opens its season April 12 at Maple Grove at 4:30 p.m.
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