Park softball: Wolfpack's season comes to an end
The season came to an end for the Park softball team with back-to-back losses at the Section 3AAA tournament recently, but the year wasn't without its standout performances.
One of those moments came in the second round of the section tournament, when the Wolfpack pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year. The ninth-seeded Wolfpack beat top-seeded Lakeville North - the No. 1-ranked team in the state at the time - 4-1 on Tuesday, May 21, at Dred Scott Field in Burnsville.
"The girls are getting more confident as they get older and from big wins like this," Park head coach Bob Loshek said.
Park scored a run in the first, second and third innings to take an early lead on the way to the big win over the Panthers (20-4).
"You get ahead of a team that you're not supposed to beat, according to everyone else, and you make them start to panic a little bit," Loshek said. "That's exactly what we did. We kept winning every inning. You could see (Lakeville North) getting tight and getting on each other a little bit."
At the plate, senior Mary Turitto led the way, going 2-for-3 with two doubles. Also, Paige Hill was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Park rode strong defense and a gem by starting pitcher Amber Galloway in the victory.
"They always say pitching and defense wins championships," Loshek said. "If you have good pitching and defense you can hang with anybody and beat anybody. We improved so much from last year. We played flawless defense to beat Stillwater earlier this year and incredible defense against Lakeville North to help us win the game."
Park had a letdown two days after the big win however, losing 3-1 to Lakeville South (11-11) in the section quarterfinals and 9-2 to ninth-ranked Eastview (15-6) in the play-back bracket on Thursday, May 23, to end the year in the double-elimination tournament.
Against Lakeville South, Park ran up against the Cougars' power pitcher Kylie Stober, who had it going on the mound that day.
"Stober threw extremely well," Loshek said. "They don't hit the ball a ton. The ball was really moving and she really through a great game."
Park had the bases loaded in the fifth inning and had runners on first and third in the seventh, but couldn't get anyone across the plate.
"The deeper into playoffs you get and in the state tournament, you're going to see great pitching," Loshek said. "Against great pitching like that you only get a couple chances."
Immediately following the loss to Lakeville South, Park took the field against Eastview. Eighth grade pitcher Hanna Mortenson started the game against the Lightning.
"In the loser's bracket you have to play two games a day and we wanted to keep Amber fresh," Loshek said. "We threw Hanna in the deep end, which is great experience for her and shows her what it's going to take to pitch well enough to get to the state tournament. She threw pretty well, but the defense didn't play as well as they did against Lakeville North and Simley."
Park held a slight lead early in the game but, as it was against Lakeville South, Park's offense was quiet in the second game of the day.
"Hitting is contagious," Loshek said. "I don't know what it was, but the girls weren't as aggressive at the plate. We didn't have as many good at-bats against Eastview."
Bloomington Jefferson won the Section 3AAAA championship title, beating Lakeville South twice in the final.
Park finished 9-9 overall on the season.
"The girls really stepped up their game this year," Loshek said. "We're looking forward to a number of big senior seasons. This team can be as good as they want to be. If they put the work in and believe they can do it, they could have a very big year."
One of those key players is expected to be Galloway, who went 9-2 on the year and was selected to the Section 3AAAA team and named All-Conference honorable mention.
"Amber is really improving," Loshek said. "She has more confidence now that she's been on the mound a couple of years. Hopefully she'll take that into this offseason and work on it, so she can have dominant pitches."
Galloway also hit .402 on the year, with 12 runs scored, five doubles, two home runs and 15 RBI. She only struck out four times on the year.
"As a coach you're always looking for that continuous improvement to get better every day, every week and every year," Loshek said. "We expect a big senior season from her if she puts in the work in the offseason."
In all, Park had three players earn first team All-Conference: Turitto, junior Sam Flack and sophomore Rachel Suter; and four All-Conference honorable mention players: Galloway, juniors Michaela Thiefoldt and Paige Hill and freshman 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, Theifoldt hit .302 with a home run and nine RBI and Hill batted .324 on the season.
Next year, Park will be without one senior from this year's roster - Turitto, who will play college ball at Winona State University.
Loshek called the shortstop "one of the best players to ever come out of Park."
Making the switch to the leadoff spot this season, Turitto hit .405 with 15 runs scored, six doubles, three homeruns, 18 walks, 15 RBI and three steals. 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's the epitome of what you want to see out of a student-athlete," Loshek said. "She's very smart in the classroom and when she comes to practice, she gets after it. She works an incredible amount in the offseason. She stepped up in all parts of her game and led us by example this season."