Lakers hoping to build off 16-win season
After ringing up a surprising 16-5 record for the 2011 season, the Detroit Lakes softball team is looking for even better things in 2012.
Led by a dozen seniors and with the vast majority of their players returning from that 16-win team, expectations are on the rise.
"Our goal is to be playing our best ball at the end of May," said DL head coach Phil Kirchner. "The number one goal for the 12 seniors who are back is to be playing our best in the playoffs.
"I'm not going to put any pressure on the girls, though. I just want them to do their best."
Leading into the season, there are several factors which point to the Lakers as being touted as a strong, well-rounded team.
They will have almost their entire one through nine batters back, which averaged 10.2 runs per game and a team batting average of .440 last season.
That includes their top three hitters in seniors Brianna Seebold and Laurenn Johnson, and junior Kathryn Kinney.
The Laker trio makes up a potent top of the order with batting averages which soar past the .500 mark.
All-State selection Johnson led the state in hits with 51, while hauling a bloated .609 average, and Seebold acted as the muscle with her .621 average, 42 RBIs and seven home runs.
Leadoff hitter Kinney also put up lofty numbers with a .531 average and 10 doubles.
While the speedsters Kinney and Johnson set the table by making it on base, Seebold drives them in with her powerful swing.
"We will be able to swing the bat," Kirchner said. "It does give you more room for error when you score 10.2 runs a game and our top three batters are the best that you can get."
Adding to the lineup as potential run-producers will be Seebold's sister, freshman Emily Seebold, along with seniors Amanda Young (18 RBIs, .333), Sadie Larson (.448), Jenna Lamb (.345), Arica Johnson (.453) and Hannah Ianiro.
"One through nine, we'll be pretty solid," Kirchner added.
Depth is also a strength, with players such as junior Abby Schlauderaff, freshman Carolyn Kinney and sophomore Brooke Olson providing offense.
Despite all that offensive output, however, the team's success will be based on the pitching mound and defense.
The Lakers will have a pair of pitchers to throw at opponents in senior Haley Baer and freshman Chaz Butz.
Both saw plenty of action in 2011 and the key for each will be finding the strike zone this year.
Butz went 10-3 last year with a 4.44 ERA, while Baer went 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA.
"The key will be to throw strikes and avoid walks," the DL coach said. "Both will see time on the mound with over 20 games this year. But we do need to increase our strikeouts this year."
The defense will also be pivotal, especially in close contests. All position players are back, which is a big positive, as well.
Brianna Seebold will anchor the field at catcher, in which she is one of the tops in the area.
Sadie Larson and Arika Johnson will platoon at first base, while Johnson is a sure glove at second.
Kathryn Kinney solidifies the middle of the infield at shortstop, while Young secures the hot corner at third.
The outfield should be better this season with a year's worth of experience by Ianiro, Lamb, Arika Johnson and Schlauderaff.
The Lakers will also get a taste of real sunshine and a fun preseason when they travel to Orlando, Fla., April 3-9, to play a few scrimmages at Disney World's Wide World of Sports complex.
"We'll get in five practices and three scrimmages in Florida, so we should be ready for our first game (April 12 with Lake Park-Audubon)," Kirchner said. "The girls wanted this trip and are paying for it all out of their own pockets, with the school not paying anything for it."
Section 8-2A also lost traditional powerhouse West Central, but added Hawley. Fergus Falls and DL will be considered preseason favorites, as well.
Kirchner's assistants for the season will be Kalan Malchow, Bri Larsen and Julie Bartley.
The 2012 Detroit Lakes softball schedule:
12 Lake Park-Audubon
14 at Bemidji
17 at Crosby-Ironton
21 DL Invite
24 Park Rapids
27 at Staples-Motley
1 Wadena-Deer Creek
4 at Perham
8 Pequot Lakes
18 at East Grand Forks
22 Section Play-in game TBD
24 Section quarterfinals
29 Section semifinals
31 Section finals
7-8 State tournament.