Softball: Park Rapids faced tough challenges
The Panthers battled, finished with a 10-11 record.
PARK RAPIDS – A spring that allowed only one outdoor practice before the first game had an impact on the success of the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team this season.
The Panthers entered this season having to find new players to start at several positions.
Seniors Abby Morris (shortstop), Allison Offerdahl (first base/pitcher) and Natalie Harvey (outfield) along with juniors Chloe Tretbar (pitcher/first base) and Tori Weaver (third base) returned to their starting spots. Junior Mickey Clark made the transition from second base to center field.
That left junior Avery Cederstrom (outfield); sophomores Kasen Girtz (outfield) and Kilea Persons (outfield); and freshmen Nora Cederstrom (second base), Allie Rowland (catcher) and Anna Yliniemi (outfield) being counted on to fill the other starting positions.
A lack of outside preparation played a key role as 68 errors (including 12 games with at least three errors) led to 52 unearned runs. That resulted in a 10-11 overall record for the Panthers.
“I know practicing for six straight weeks in the gym was very challenging. Due to the worst spring I've seen in all my years of coaching, we had one practice outside before our first game. We didn't have an opportunity to practice key parts of the game, like fly balls and game situation baserunning. There are parts of this game you just can't duplicate in the gym,” said Park Rapids head coach Marion Goeden. “Rescheduling one half of our season was tough. We played a full season's schedule in a half season's time. There were several weeks where we were only able to have one practice. I was a little disappointed with the results of our season. There were areas of the game we really focused on preseason that we didn't see carry over to the field. Our coaching staff felt we had the tools to put together a better season than what resulted.”
The Panthers opened the season in May with a Mid-State Conference doubleheader sweep over Staples-Motley by scores of 17-3 and 12-0 with both games ending after five innings. A three-game losing streak followed as Park Rapids was swept by Pequot Lakes (9-8 and 11-0) in a conference doubleheader and lost to Moorhead (10-0).
A three-game winning streak followed as the Panthers swept Crosby-Ironton (13-0 in five innings and 13-6) in a Mid-State doubleheader and defeated Roseau 9-8 in the first game of a doubleheader. Roseau won the second game 12-10 and Barnesville followed by posting a 13-3 win in six innings.
After a 7-3 win over Sebeka, Park Rapids lost to Browerville-Eagle Valley 5-1. The Panthers then swept a conference doubleheader against Detroit Lakes by scores of 14-4 in five innings and 11-5.
Pequot Lakes won the conference title with a 10-0 record while the Panthers were second at 6-2. Aitkin (3-3), Detroit Lakes (4-6), Crosby-Ironton (3-7) and Staples-Motley (0-8) rounded out the Mid-State standings.
After losing games to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (13-3 in six innings), Perham (2-0) and Frazee (7-4), the Panthers closed out the regular season with a 15-3 win in six innings over Wadena-Deer Creek.
Park Rapids, which went 3-7 in section play, received the No. 4 seed in the North for the Section 8AA tournament. After opening with a 9-2 win over No. 5 Warroad, the Panthers were eliminated from the playoffs with losses to No. 1 D-G-F (13-0 in five innings) and No. 3 Roseau (8-7). D-G-F defeated Hawley (9-4 and 4-3 in eight innings) for the section championship and went on to finish fourth at the state Class AA tournament.
For the season, the Panthers hit .309 as a team while posting a team ERA of 4.80. Leading an offense that averaged 7.4 runs a game were Weaver (.485 average), Morris (.419 average), Rowland (.343 average), Clark (.342 average) and Tretbar (.328 average).
Weaver led the team with 32 hits (including 14 extra-base hits) in 66 at bats and 29 RBI while scoring 25 runs and stealing 12 bases. Morris had 31 hits (including two home runs) in 74 at bats and led the team with 30 runs scored and 22 stolen bases while adding 12 RBI. Rowland had 12 hits in 35 at bats, scored seven runs and had six RBI. Clark had 13 hits in 38 at bats with 16 runs, seven RBI and 12 stolen bases. Tretbar had 20 hits (including two homers) in 61 at bats with 24 RBI, 15 runs and nine steals.
Girtz hit .286 (12-42) with 16 runs, seven RBI and six steals. Persons had a .264 average (14-53) with six runs, six RBI and six steals. Nora Cederstrom batted .258 (16-62) with19 runs, seven RBI and 10 steals. Offerdahl hit .236 (13-55) and had 11 runs, 11 RBI and five steals. Harvey had a .189 average (7-37) with five runs and three RBI while Avery Cederstrom hit .167 (5-30) with three runs and four RBI. Yliniemi hit .083 (1-12) with a home run, two runs and three RBI.
Tretbar (7-9 record, 5.55 ERA in 77 innings and 21 games) and Offerdahl (3-2 record, one save, 3.57 ERA in 47 innings and 15 games) handled the pitching chores as Park Rapids allowed 6.5 runs a game. Those two combined to allow 137 runs (85 earned) on 174 hits and 77 walks with 80 strikeouts.
Morris and Weaver earned Section 8AA honors and joined Offerdahl, Clark and Tretbar as all-conference players. Earning team awards were Morris (Panther Ambassador), Weaver (Silver Slugger), Rowland (Gold Glove and Hardest Worker), Nora Cederstrom (Rookie of the Year and Most Improved), and Clark (Panther Spirit Award). Morris, Harvey and Offerdahl received all-state academic honors. The Panthers also received an all-state academic Gold Award.
The Panthers will have three key players to replace next season. However, Goeden is looking for her team to finish above the .500 mark and contend for the conference and section titles next spring.
“We will need to reflect on what it was that kept us from having more success. This team was a gritty group of players. We had several games this season where we were down and rallied back. We'll have to take what was positive and build on that,” said Goeden. “I see our program still in a phase of rebuilding. However, I've watched the upcoming players and I really like what I see. The JV had a terrific season. There's a group of athletes that love playing this game and are committed to our program. Having players that love the game and believe in the process will result in a successful season.”