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2014 Spring Preview: Wealth of talent returns for Woodbury softball team

Excitement permeates a Woodbury Royals softball team that took the eventual state champion to the edge last year.

The Royals lost 3-0 in extra innings to the Stillwater Ponies in the Section 4AAA quarterfinals after reeling off a couple of postseason wins. A strong core of players from that Royals team return this season.

“We have a great nucleus and now it is time to fill in the rest of our lineup with many talented young players,” Royals coach Bob Samson said.

Infield starters Madi Yochum returns to third base, and Ellie Blanchfield will play at first again. Outfielder Melissa Johnson also returns. Jordyn Yourczek, Tori Erickson and Caitlin Blasimo all return and will serve as team captains.

Five seniors graduated from a Royals team that went 10-11 and 8-9 in the Suburban East Conference. That crew includes pitcher Brooke Pantilla who shut out the Ponies through six innings in the section quarterfinal battle. Newcomers will be looked to for filling in spots in order to make another postseason run.

“We are extremely excited about the coming season and the many new additions to our team,” Samson said.

He and his team hope for a quicker warm-up for the spring. Last year, the Royals had to squeeze in eight double headers from April 25 to May 16 due to postponements.

“Last season’s weather led to doubleheaders and we hope to not go there again,” Samson said.

A tough Suburban East Conference slate awaits the Royals. Stillwater returns sufficient talent to be the team to beat. Defending SEC champ Forest Lake along with Hastings, East Ridge and Park will all give the Royals tough match-ups.

Samson will also coach his 15th season with the Royals this year. The Royals will also look to get their first winning season since 2008 when they went 16-6 and reached the section semifinals.

—Matthew Davis

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