Marion Goeden's mantra for the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team this season was 'Leaving a legacy one play at a time.'"
That's exactly what the senior crew of Kaisa Coborn, Kendra Coborn, Natalie Kinkel and Kylee Pachel did during their four-year careers for the Panthers.
Those four provided the leadership this season as the Panthers repeated as Mid-State Conference champions with a 10-0 record, advanced to the Section 8AA championship and finished with a 24-3 overall record. The 24 wins broke the school record set in 2016 (23-3) and in 2017 (23-2).
During their varsity careers, those four players led the Panthers to four straight 20-win seasons, a 90-12 overall record, a 34-2 record in Mid-State play and four straight conference titles, and two trips to the section finals.
"Our seniors depict our quote for the season. They have been a part of 90 wins over the last four seasons. They have acquired a very high level of skill and knowledge. I've learned from them. Even more important, these four have mentored our younger players," said Goeden. "Our state ranking and several state awards show the impact they have had. They have helped bring our program recognition on a state level."
The Panthers earned state recognition from the opening pitch by being rated No. 6 in the first state Class AA poll. Park Rapids ended the regular season tied for the No. 4 spot in the state poll. In the first 17 games, the Panthers dominated their opponents with a 215 to 35 advantage in runs in opening the season with a 17-0 record. The Panthers won 10 of those games by the mercy rule.
After defeating Frazee 8-2 in the season opener, the Panthers opened Mid-State Conference play by sweeping Crosby-Ironton by scores of 18-0 in four innings and 10-0 in five innings. Park Rapids followed a 12-1 win in five innings over Wadena-Deer Creek with another conference sweep over Pequot Lakes by scores of 10-0 in six innings and 21-6.
Conference sweeps over Aitkin (12-2 in five innings and 24-1 in four innings) and Detroit Lakes (10-0 in five innings and 9-4) were followed by three wins at the Park Rapids Invitational as the Panthers edged Roseau 5-4 and defeated Lake of the Woods 13-3 in five innings and Crookston 21-0 in four innings.
The Panthers improved to 17-0 by defeating Perham 10-5, Moorhead 2-1, East Polk 9-6 and Crookston 21-0 in four innings.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton ended Park Rapids' attempt at an undefeated season with a 6-5 victory, but the Panthers rebounded to end the regular season by sweeping Staples-Motley 17-2 in five innings and 15-0 in four innings in the conference finales.
Park Rapids went undefeated in conference play to repeat as Mid-State champs. Detroit Lakes went 8-2 while Pequot Lakes (6-4), Aitkin (3-7), Crosby-Ironton (3-7) and Staples-Motley (0-10) followed.
For the Section 8AA tournament, the Panthers received the No. 2 seed in the North and opened the playoffs with a 7-1 win over No. 7 Bagley and a 6-1 win over No. 3 Warroad. Thief River Falls, the No. 1 seed in the North, sent Park Rapids into the losers' bracket with an 8-1 victory. The Panthers stayed alive by eliminating Perham (the No. 4 seed in the South) 7-0, Pequot Lakes (the No. 3 seed in the South) 5-2 and D-G-F (the No. 1 seed in the South) 1-0. Thief River Falls denied the Panthers a trip to state with a 10-3 victory in the section finals.
For the season, the Panthers hit .385 as a team while averaging 10.4 runs a game. Park Rapids allowed 2.4 runs a game while holding the opposition to a .189 batting average. The Panthers outscored their opponents 281 to 65 with nine shutouts. The Panthers broke school record with 15 home runs and 220 RBI while finishing second in runs scored (281) and shut outs (10) while the .385 team batting average ranked third in school history.
In addition to the four seniors, juniors Rilee Michaelson and Katelyn Weaver; sophomores Shailyn Pachel, Cassidy Bera and Ellie Ulvin; and freshman Abby Morris played key roles for the Panthers this season.
Of that group, Kylee Pachel earned Class AA First Team honors, Michaelson received Class AA Second Team honors and Kaisa Coborn was a Class AA all-state honorable mention player. Those three were joined by Kinkel on the Section 8AA team while those four received Mid-State Conference honors along with Kendra Coborn and Weaver. Shailyn Pachel and Morris received all-conference honorable mention consideration. Kylee Pachel and Kinkel also participated in the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Star Series. The Coborns and Kinkel received All-State Academic honors and the Panthers received an All-State Academic Gold Award.
Kylee Pachel started all 27 games at catcher and led the starters with a .573 batting average (51 for 89, including 17 doubles, one triple and seven home runs for a 1.022 slugging percentage) with 53 RBI and 40 runs scored. The 51 hits, 17 doubles, seven home runs, 53 RBI and 1.022 slugging percentage broke single-season school records while her 114 career RBI and 39 career doubles also set school records. Pachel also ranks second in school history with 142 hits.
Kaisa Coborn was the starter in right field in all 27 games and batted .511 (45 for 88, including 14 doubles, two triples and three homers) with 42 runs scored and 33 RBI. Coborn broke the school record with 10 career homers and ranks fourth in school history with 116 runs scored and fifth in school history with 114 career hits.
Kinkel started all 27 games at shortstop and hit .389 (37 for 95, including 10 doubles and five triples) with a team-leading 44 runs scored and 20 stolen bases to go along with 20 RBI. Kinkel's 64 career steals and 134 runs scored rank second in school history.
Kendra Coborn was the starter in center field in all 27 games and finished with a .357 batting average (30 for 84, including five doubles) with 30 runs scored, 12 stolen bases and 19 RBI. Coborn ranks third in school history with 117 runs scored.
Michaelson was the Panthers' starting pitcher, setting a school record in wins by going 24-2 with a 2.02 ERA. In 149 ⅓ innings, Michaelson allowed 58 runs (39 earned) on 104 hits and 51 walks while striking out 104. Michaelson threw three no-hitters, including the program's first two perfect games in the two wins against Crookston. At the plate, Michaelson hit .395 (34 for 86, including eight doubles, one triple and three homers) with 21 runs and 26 RBI.
Weaver started 26 games at first base and batted .351 (26 for 74, including three doubles, three triples and one homer) with 21 runs and 21 RBI.
Shailyn Pachel took over the starting spot at third base and hit .357 (30 for 84, including eight doubles) with 31 runs, 16 RBI and 11 steals in 27 games.
Morris earned the starting spot at second base, hitting .349 (29 for 83, including six doubles and one homer) with 26 runs, 19 RBI and 13 steals in 27 games in her first varsity season.
Bera started in left field and scored three runs while Ulvin served as a designated hitter and played left field, scoring 15 runs.
Also seeing some varsity time this season were sophomore Amber Berndt and freshmen Tarynn Arola and Allison Offerdahl.
"I feel we had a terrific season. Before the season started, I felt we had the potential to have a really good year because of the players we had back in our lineup. Our seven returners are excellent players and have a collective knowledge that is really hard to top. When you add in the support we had with our coaching staff, we had a lot of really good things going on," said Goeden. "Our success was a combination of having four of the best senior athletes on our team and two juniors who are at the top of their class also. These players know our system, our culture and our high expectations. They know what is expected of them in the weight room and on the field. They know how to work hard and yet know how to make it really fun at the same time. No coach is more blessed than I have been with these players who chose to be a part of this program."
Goeden knows there is no way to replace the contributions of the four seniors. However, the Park Rapids head coach is counting on the returning varsity players and some talented underclassmen to keep the winning tradition going next season.
"The end-of-the-season honors bestowed on this group of seniors is beyond what we've ever had in our program. Our seniors have my total respect and I will miss them terribly," said Goeden. "You might think graduating these four seniors would make me believe we will lower our expectations for next year. Then you think about it, the other programs graduated some really good seniors, too. I realize we will have a younger lineup next year, but we will keep our expectations high. We will work hard to improve all season long. I expect we will have another good season in 2020."
Park Rapids offensive statistics
Batting average (Team .385): Offerdahl .600 (3 for 6), K. Pachel .573 (51 for 89), Ka. Coborn .511 (45 for 88), Michaelson .395 (34 for 86), Kinkel .389 (37 for 95), Ke. Coborn .357 (30 for 84), S. Pachel .357 (30 for 84), Weaver .351 (26 for 74), Morris .349 (29 for 83), Arola .167 (1 for 6), Ulvin (.157 (8 for 51), Bera .050 (1 for 20), Berndt .000 (0 for 1).
2B: K. Pachel 17, Ka. Coborn 14, Kinkel 10, Michaelson 8, S. Pachel 8, Morris 6, Ke. Coborn 5, Weaver 3, Arola 1.
3B: Kinkel 5, Weaver 3, Ka. Coborn 2, K. Pachel 1, Michaelson 1.
HR: K. Pachel 7, Ka. Coborn 3, Michaelson 3, Weaver 1, Morris 1.
Runs: Kinkel 44, Ka. Coborn 42, K.Pachel 40, S. Pachel 31, Ke. Coborn 30, Morris 26, Michaelson 21, Weaver 21, Ulvin 15, Offerdahl 3, Bera 3, Berndt 3, Arola 2.
RBI: K. Pachel 53, Ka. Coborn 33, Michaelson 26, Weaver 21, Kinkel 20, Ke. Coborn 19, Morris 19, S. Pachel 16, Ulvin 9, Bera 3, Offerdahl 1.
SB: Kinkel 20, Morris 13, Ke. Coborn 12, S. Pachel 11, Ka. Coborn 9, K. Pachel 4, Weaver 4, Michaelson 3, Ulvin 3, Offerdahl 1, Arola 1, Bera 1, Berndt 1.
Park Rapids pitching statistics
Michaelson (27 games, 24-2 W-L, 2.02 ERA, 149.33 innings, 104 hits, 51 walks, 8 hit batters, 136 strikeouts, 58 runs, 39 earned runs).
Offerdahl (5 games, 0-1 W-L, 2.60 ERA, 9 innings, 7 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts, 7 runs, 3 earned runs).