Pitching to be Lakers' strength
After losing nine seniors from last year's squad, the Detroit Lakes softball team will have plenty of new gloves in both the outfield and infield.
But there will be one consistent factor for the Lakers, who played to the Section 8-2A championship game last year -- and that's one of the most important positions on the field.
Junior Callea Butz returns for her third year as DL's starting pitcher, after taking a huge progressive step last season.
"Callea has put lots of time pitching in the offseason, and she'll be one of our leaders on the team," said DL head coach Phil Kirchner.
"We do have some high expectations of her, and she will be one of our strengths on the team."
One of the facets of pitching Butz started to excel in was striking out batters and avoiding walks.
This season, Kirchner hopes too see some other important steps taken by Butz as well.
"She figured out the mental part of the game and started hitting her spots," Kirchner said.
"She'll have to work on her offspeed pitches and learn when to use that and when to throw it by a batter."
With nine players from last year's squad gone, there will be plenty of positions to be filled by inexperienced players.
Senior Ashley Baer is one of the experienced infielders, and will be back at first base, while sophomore Courtney Goettel will see time there also.
Senior Sarah Wilson moves in from the outfield to anchor second base, with depth being provided by sophomore Ashley Morben and junior Donna Wicker.
Junior Shayna Dugger will make the move to shortstop, while sophomore Ali Olds and freshman Brianna Seebold will each see time at third base.
Catcher will be an important position to fill, since they will be calling the game and catching for Butz.
Although inexperienced, Kirchner feels his three catchers, who include sophomore Olivia Hanson, Wicker and Seebold, will be solid.
"It's an important position to fill," the DL coach added.
Filling the outfield will be an open competition, with contenders being juniors Jalen Even, Amalea Branden, sophomore Stefany Ianiro and Wilson, who has proven to be one of the better outfielders in the section.
"One thing we do have in the outfield is experience," Kirchner said.
The bats will also be green, with little varsity experience in them.
That will mean some "small ball" will be played -- meaning slap hits, bunting and manufacturing runs will be implemented.
"Most of our girls will need to adjust to varsity pitching," Kirchner stated.
"We'll be relying on our seasoned hitters like Amalea (Branden), Wilson, Baer and Kasey Smith, who missed last year with an injury."
Progression through the season will hopefully be like last year, when the Lakers made a strong run through the section playoffs and finished as runner-up to Ottertail Central.
"The older girls have some higher expectations because they know they can play with anyone in the section," Kirchner said.
"They got some taste of success last year."
The Lakers will open in Moorhead April 7, with their home opener set for April 17, against Thief River Falls.
Detroit Lakes softball 2009 schedule:
7 at Moorhead
17 Thief River Falls
18 DL Invite
21 Park Rapids
1 at Pequot Lakes
8 at Perham
12 at Wadena-Deer Creek
14 at Thief River Falls