With a talented group of returning players and some quality talent joining the team, the Holy Angels softball team is primed for a big 2017 season.
After finishing the 2016 campaign just two games shy of advancing to the state tournament, Holy Angels head softball coach Curt Cardinal is confident his team can improve on last year’s performance.
“We come in knowing a lot more about what it will take to take that next step,” Cardinal said. “I’ve been working with the team and we know we can hit pretty well, we hit any kind of pitching that we saw last year, even in sections hitting wasn’t our area we needed to improve on.
“It was pretty much our defense and our base running that were areas we were concentrating on in the spring in the dome.”
Holy Angels enters the season without a senior on its roster, but the Stars have nine juniors that have extensive starting experience.
“The good thing is most of our juniors will be in their third year starting,” Cardinal said. “They’re not new to the playing role and we’re looking for some of them to take that new leadership role.”
Juniors Melya Owens and Rylee Fischer have been named the two co-captains, while Lauren Holtgren, Holly Lutgen, Nora Huberty, Megan Meyer, Riley Thalhuber and Erin Powers make up the team’s leadership council.
“All [nine] juniors have an input on our decision making,” Cardinal said. “We’re looking to use all of them as leaders because they all have different leadership abilities, so I’m looking to tap into that and spread it around a bit.”
In his second season at the helm, Cardinal believes he is now more comfortable with the team.
“Knowing how they play, where they play, what they’re comfortable with, things they do well and things they need to improve on is a big help this year,” Cardinal said. “Conversely, they know what kind of play I’m looking for will help them feel comfortable as well.”
The pre-season for Holy Angels came to and end April 7, as the Stars played Holy Family to open the 2017 season. Holy Angels was able to win the game 8-6.
“It’s always good to kick the season off with a W,” Cardinal said. “We played well enough to win, but we left ourselves with some opportunities to improve throughout the rest of the season.
“It was closer than it needed to be. At one point we were ahead 7-1 and then we had some walks and some errors, and one inning when we didn’t play as good defense as we needed to.”
Cardinal believes first-game jitters attributed to the few rough innings.
“We have a couple of new players in the lineup and Holy Family had one game under their belt already,” Cardinal said. “I have a veteran team, so we shouldn’t be too jittery, but there’s always that first game when things are new and different.
“We do have some pretty high expectations for this season, so we have to get our feet under us this week.”
Powers and Owens led the Stars with two hits apiece against Holy Family, while Meyer and Thalhuber recorded two RBIs each. Holtgren, Owens, Powers and Leah Lood had one RBI each.
On the mound, Owens pitched seven innings and gave up six runs (four earned), while walking four and striking out six.
The Stars will play next against Fridley at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at Fridley High School
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.