Panthers faced tough challenges

Even before the season began, the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team faced some tough challenges. Having Janessa Wolff concentrate on basketball instead of playing softball left the Panthers without an experienced varsity pitcher. The graduation...

Even before the season began, the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team faced some tough challenges.

Having Janessa Wolff concentrate on basketball instead of playing softball left the Panthers without an experienced varsity pitcher. The graduation of Kristen Harsha left the Panthers without a catcher with varsity experience. In addition, injuries forced head coach Marion Goeden to move players around into unfamiliar positions.

That lack of experience at key spots and a lack of cohesiveness all season led to a 6-16 overall record. That snapped a streak of 12 years in which the Panthers had posted at least a .500 record. The last time Park Rapids failed to go at least .500 was in the program's first three seasons in 1991 (3-10), 1992 (3-11) and 1993 (8-10).

The Panthers batted an impressive .321 as a team (which was the third best in school history, trailing only the .338 average last year and the .327 average in 2004), but averaged only 5.5 runs a game, which was the lowest in the 16-year history of the program. Park Rapids also gave up an average of 8.9 runs a game, which was the fourth-highest total in school history, trailing the 14.1 runs per game in 1991, the 18.2 runs per game in 1992 and the 11.6 runs per game in 1993.

Despite struggling to pick up wins all season, Goeden saw plenty of promising signs from her team.


"It's no secret we did not meet the goals we set at the beginning of the season," said Goeden. "This was a hard season in that we had more than our share of situations that kept us from reaching those goals. We did not have one game in our 22 where our whole varsity team was in the line-up. We hit the ball well enough to win more games, but not having our top team on the field held us back. It was something we had to work through and deal with and this team accepted the challenge."

The Panthers were outscored 129-65 in going 2-10 in Mid-State Conference play. Park Rapids lost doubleheaders to Wadena-Deer Creek (18-3 and 12-8), Detroit Lakes (11-1 and 11-5), Staples-Motley (14-0 and 5-1) and Pequot Lakes (10-7 and 11-10) and split doubleheaders with Perham (winning 11-6 and losing 13-3) and Crosby-Ironton (winning 7-5 and losing 13-9).

Park Rapids also had its streak of winning its own invitational tournament snapped by placing fourth this year. The Panthers had won this title the last five years. Park Rapids opened with a 12-1 win over Norman County West before losing to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 4-3 in eight innings and Lake of the Woods 5-3.

In their other four regular-season games, the Panthers went 2-2 with wins over Pine River-Backus (13-2) and Sebeka (7-4) and losses to Bagley (10-5) and W-H-A (9-3).

For the Section 8AA playoffs, the Panthers received the No. 3 seed in Subsection 4 and avenged the two regular-season losses to W-H-A with a 6-4 win in the first round of the playoffs. That win gave the Panthers a spot in the section tournament.

Park Rapids was eliminated from the section tourney with a 13-1 loss to Bagley in the subsection title game and a 16-2 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the quarterfinals.

Despite winning only six games, the Panthers had plenty of individuals who produced successful numbers.

Leading that list were the three players who played all 137 innings: senior Katie Carroll, junior Amy Luther and sophomore Heather Tretbar. All three earned Mid-State Conference honors with Carroll and Luther earning all-section honors.


Carroll ended her four-year varsity career among the leaders in several categories. In four years, Carroll batted .399 (83 for 208) with 76 runs, 23 doubles, 62 RBI, 10 sacrifices, 31 stolen bases and 113 assists in 456 innings. Carroll ranks No. 1 in sacrifices, No. 2 in hits, No. 2 in doubles, No. 4 in assists, No. 5 in at bats and No. 5 in runs scored in school history.

Carroll set a single-season school record with 15 doubles this season and ended the season second on the team in batting with a .429 average (30 for 70). Carroll also had 16 runs, 13 RBI and three stolen bases while playing shortstop and third base. She shared the team's Most Spirited Player award.

Luther moved from first base to starting pitcher and went 6-14 with a 7.76 ERA. Luther, who went 0-3 in 23 innings last season, pitched 119 innings and 17 complete games this season, allowing 146 hits, 132 earned runs and 107 walks while striking out 101. Offensively, Luther batted .353 (24 for 68) with 15 runs, a team-leading 18 RBI and five stolen bases. Luther received the team's Coaches Award.

Tretbar played first base, second base and shortstop and hit .347 (25 for 72) with a team-leading 17 runs, 13 RBI and a team-leading 12 stolen bases. Tretbar tied a school record with four hits in a game against both Perham and Pequot Lakes.

Also serving as starters this season were senior Ashly Karl; juniors Carly Helfrich and Leah Moorhouse; sophomores Amber Rowland, Kelli Schweigart, Steph Medved and Kaitlyn Steffen; and freshman Danielle Dent.

Karl, who shared the team's Most Spirited Player award, started at all three outfield spots and batted .139 (5 for 36) with four runs and four RBI in 125 innings.

Helfrich played 93 innings as the starting center fielder and batted .271 (13 for 48) with eight runs, five RBI and eight stolen bases.

Moorhouse played 124 innings in the outfield and at catcher and batted .222 (10 for 45) with eight runs, five RBI and four stolen bases.


Rowland played first base, second base and right field and led the team with a .448 batting average (26 for 58). In 122 innings, Rowland had 13 runs, nine doubles and 13 RBI and tied a school record with three doubles in a game (against Detroit Lakes). Rowland received the team's Hitter's Award.

Medved played 106 innings at third base and catcher and hit .333 (15 for 45) with 12 runs, seven RBI and seven stolen bases. Medved received the team's Golden Glove award.

Schweigart started at right field and second base and hit .340 (17 for 50) with 12 runs and nine RBI in 108 innings. Schweigart tied a school record with four hits against Pequot Lakes.

Steffen received the team's Most Improved Player honor after batting .229 (8 for 35) with four runs and two RBI while playing first base, second base, third base, left field and right field.

Dent started 74 innings at catcher and third base before being sidelined with a foot injury. Dent hit .265 (9 for 34) with eight runs and four RBI in her varsity debut.

Freshman Cady Clinton went 0-1 and had two saves in 11 innings on the mound after being called up late in the season. Clinton allowed 18 hits and 11 earned runs with six walks and six strikeouts in her varsity debut while contributing two hits and two RBI offensively.

Sophomore Anna Fossen, freshman Brittney Gartner and sophomore Holly Roepke also saw some varsity action this season.

The Panthers will have to replace the starting spots of Carroll and Karl, but with eight letterwinners returning and four other players with some varsity experience back, Goeden is looking for a reversal of fortunes next spring.


"It was a tough season, but I'm optimistic for next year," said Goeden. "We were young this year, but with a year under our belt, I expect next year's team to flip this record around and challenge the best teams in our area."

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