Park softball: Galloway, Flack down WoodburyRival softball teams from Park and Woodbury renewed their longstanding tradition on Saturday at Park High School’s Charlie Whitbred Field.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Rival softball teams from Park and Woodbury renewed their longstanding tradition on Saturday at Park High School’s Charlie Whitbred Field.
In what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel, Park edged the Royals 2-1 for its third win of the spring.
“It all starts with pitching and defense,” Park head coach Bob Loshek said. “If your pitchers can hit spots and keep the batters off balance, you have a good shot at fielding the ball. On the other hand, if your pitchers leave the ball in the middle of the plate, up in the zone, there isn’t much the defense behind them can do if it is hit away from them.”
This year, the District 833 and Suburban East Conference rivals are trying to replace their aces in the pitching circle. Park lost two-year starting pitcher Cassie MacArthur to graduation. MacArthur was an All-Conference and All-Section pitcher for the Wolfpack. Woodbury is replacing 2011 graduate Abbie Morris, who was a two-year starter for the Royals and also provided a big bat in the middle of the Royals lineup.
On Saturday, however, Park sophomore Amber Galloway and Woodbury junior Brooke Pantila looked up to the task.
Galloway only gave up one unearned run, didn’t walk a batter and struck out four for the win, while Pantila had a shutout going into the fifth inning and ended up allowing six hits and two runs in the loss.
With Park (3-4; 2-3 SEC) down 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore infielder Sam Flack came through with the big hit in the game, crushing a two-run double with two outs to give Park a 2-1 lead. In the inning, Mikayla Thiefoldt worked a leadoff walk from Pantila, advanced to second base on Rachel Suter’s sacrifice bunt. Then, after Gwen Warling’s line-drive base hit, Flack delivered the decisive blow to left field to score both Thiefoldt and Warling.
In the top of the sixth inning, Woodbury (1-3; 1-3 SEC) got a runner to third base with two outs, but Galloway forced a ground ball for the third out – then shut down the Royals 1-2-3 in the seventh to secure the victory.
“Our defense came to play today and if we are going to contend the rest of the way, our defense will have to show up on a daily basis,” said Loshek, who was a former assistant softball coach at Woodbury before taking the reins of Park.
Park and Woodbury have a long history. The two District 833 squads shared the Suburban East Conference championship title in 2007. Park had only seven losses that year, but two were to the Royals – which went on to reach the Class AAA state tournament compiling a 20-6 record. The following year, 2008, Park won the SEC title outright with a 14-2 record – but again fell to Woodbury twice. However, Park holds a 5-1 advantage over the Royals since then, including a pair of lopsided victories last season 10-0 and 11-1.
Before beating Woodbury, Park had stumbled out of the gates a bit, starting the year 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the conference. The Wolfpack opened the season by splitting a double-header against Le Sueur-Henderson then opened conference play falling 11-3 to Mounds View in its home opener. Park then beat up Roseville 12-4 on Monday, but then was crushed by Stillwater 9-1 last Wednesday, followed by an 8-2 loss to White Bear Lake on Thursday.
Of the losses, Loshek said the defensive side of the ball hurt his team.
“We have many players that are trying to step up and play multiple positions, some positions that they have never played before,” he said. “When you are not in a spot that feels comfortable, mistakes are going to happen. We understand that, and we are working on it each day in practice to be more prepared.”
Park is also incredibly young this season. First baseman Kayla Hemmingson is the team’s only senior. The Wolfpack has three juniors, six sophomores, a freshman and two eighth-graders on its roster.
“To move up to a varsity sport, one has to be willing to make a change in positions,” Loshek continued. “We may not need a third baseman for four years, and if you have only played there and are not willing to move to another position, it may be frustrating to players.”
In the win over Roseville, junior Mary Turitto put on a show. The shortstop went 3-for-4 in the game with seven RBI and a three-run home run.
Park junior pitcher Kennedy Henderson threw well enough to earn her second win of the year behind a solid defensive effort by the Wolfpack.
“We book-ended the week, with a win to start the week and end the week,” Loshek said. “If we can do that each week, it will be a very productive season.”