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Park senior starting pitcher Amber Galloway returns to help lead the Wolfpack this spring. (Bulletin file photo)

2014 Spring Preview: Park softball team welcomes back entire roster - with one exception

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sports Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The Park softball team’s roster doesn’t look much different than the one that took down two of the best teams in the state last year — with one pretty big exception.

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Park, which finished 10-9 overall in a season compacted by foul weather, beat 2012 state champion and 2013 state entrant Stillwater during the regular season and beat No. 1-ranked Lakeville North in the playoffs a year ago.

The Wolfpack welcomes back its entire 2013 roster, except for star shortstop Mary Turitto, who fifth-year head coach Bob Loshek called “one of the best players to ever come out of Park.”

Turitto, who led Park in home runs and RBI in 2013, hit .405 with 15 runs scored, six doubles, three homeruns, 18 walks, 15 RBI and three steals as a senior. She was named all-conference three times, was named all-section 3AAA and was one of 10 players picked to the All-Metro first team by the Star Tribune. She is now playing college ball at Winona State University.

Despite being without Turitto, Park brings back senior leaders Samantha Flack, Amber Galloway, Michaela Thiefoldt, Paige Hill, Molly Swanson and Kathy Melton. The Wolfpack also brings back junior Rachel Suter, who was all-conference in 2013.

In all, Park had three players earn first team all-conference last year: Turitto, Flack and Suter; and four all-conference honorable mention players: Galloway, Thiefoldt and Hill and now-sophomore Gwen Warling, who was recovering from major hip surgery throughout the season.

On the year, Flack — the team’s third hitter — batted .407 with 10 doubles and 15 RBI, Suter — the team’s No. 2 hitter — batted .404 with 11 runs scored, 10 RBI, 18 bases and only struck out twice all season. Warling batted .393 on the year with 11 runs and six RBI. Thiefoldt hit .302 with a home run and nine RBI, and Hill batted .324 on the season.

Park’s 2013 season ended a bit unceremoniously.

After beating No. 1 Lakeville North 4-1 in the Section 3AAA tournament, Park suffered back-to-back losses, falling 3-1 to Lakeville South in the section quarterfinals and 9-2 to ninth-ranked Eastview in the play-back bracket of the double-elimination tournament. Bloomington Jefferson won the Section 3AAAA championship title, beating Lakeville South twice in the final.

Lakeville North is expected to be one of the main teams to beat again this year in the postseason, while the top teams in the Suburban East Conference are thought to be Forest Lake and Stillwater, according to Loshek.

Weather permitting, Park is hoping to take the field for the first time on April 4 at Le Sueur-Henderson. Conference play is slated to start on April 7 in St. Paul against Cretin-Derham Hall. The Wolfpack’s first home game is set for April 9 against Mounds View.

—Patrick Johnson

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