Softball: East Ridge, Woodbury look to climb in the standings this season
After a third-place finish in the conference last season, the East Ridge Raptors are looking to continue to climb up the standings in the 2019 season.
The Raptors finished the 2018 season with a 12-7 overall record and a 9-7 conference record. The placement in the standings helped East Ridge earn a strong seed in the section tournament.
During section play, the Raptors defeated Rosemount in the opening round with a 6-1 final score. After that win, East Ridge lost to Park and Eagan in one-run games to end their season.
"We're excited to have a strong senior class coming back this season," said senior Sidney Zavoral. "We know what the season is like and we're going to take it one game at a time to hopefully reach our goals this year."
The players aren't the only people excited for this season as head coach Afton Murray is getting prepared for a fun season. Mainly, she's happy to get on the field in the beginning of April because last season was filled with snow and cancellations of many games.
She's also looking forward to this senior class and she hopes they are able to finish out their careers on a high note.
"We had a great season last year," Murray said. "It's great to have many returners coming back and building from last season."
Murray is looking to these seniors to be leaders for the younger players that will replace them in the 2020 season. She knows these girls are excited to lead by example and help the younger players in any way to continue growing the program at East Ridge.
The senior players are ready to not only show their leadership in games, but also in practices and at school. The team chemistry has built over the years for the Raptors because of the amount of time the players see each other off the field.
Whether it's in the hallway at school or in get togethers at homes, these girls enjoy spending time together as a team.
"We, as seniors, want to leave a lasting impact on this program before we leave," said senior Josie Dorf. "I can't wait to get back on the field this spring and play with some great players for one common goal."
East Ridge took that first step with a 14-0 win at White Bear Lake to start the season. The Raptors will have a busy upcoming week with both conference and non-conference games.
The Royals are ready to build from their 2018 season with a mixture of veterans and new faces. Woodbury finished fourth in the conference last season ending with a 7-11 regular season record and a 7-9 conference record.
The section tournament started with two wins for the Royals over White Bear Lake and Mounds View. Then, Woodbury lost two straight games to North St. Paul and Stillwater to conclude its season.
There will be a handful of new faces on the Woodbury varsity team that bring in young talent, so the veteran players and head coach Michelle Benusa are excited to see how it translates on the field.
"I think having a younger team is not a disadvantage," said senior Grace Beseman. "Just looking at the first couple of days of tryouts, all of these girls are ready to work and that's the main thing you need."
Junior Hailey Neubauer also added that this season might be different than the last couple seasons, but they are excited to continue the tradition with Woodbury softball.
The Royals have been known for their hitting ability each year and Benusa thinks this season is no different. Along with hitting, she's looking forward to the Royals' defensive ability both on the mound and around the field.
"I think defensively we will be sound," Benusa said. "If we can string our hits together, I think we'll be tough to beat."
Benusa will be looking to Neubauer and sophomore Nicole Stickels as the one, two duo for pitching as both led the team in the 2018 season. Along with pitching, Benusa will be looking for those two and Beseman to lead this younger team during the season.
Beseman is the lone senior on the team and is excited to help these younger players understand the traditions of Woodbury softball. Benusa loves having her in lineup and helping these players grow each day at practice and in the game.
"I don't think we could ask for a better leader," Benusa said about Beseman. "Not just in games, but in practice. The way she carries herself, she's a great role model."
The Royals have already recorded their first win of the season with a 2-1 win at Cretin-Derham Hall on Thursday night and they will prepare for a busy upcoming week.