2012 Spring Preview: Is hope for No. 5 alive for New Life softball team?Last year, New Life became the first fastpitch softball team in Minnesota history to win four consecutive state championships. Last year’s record-setting season will be a hard act for this year’s Eagles team to follow.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
In 2011, New Life Academy earned its place in history. Last year, the Eagles became the first fastpitch softball team in Minnesota history to win four consecutive state championships, with an 8-2 win in the Class A championship game at the MSHSL State Tournament in Mankato.
“This is going to put our legacy at New Life in the books,” NLA head coach Mick Ramey said after the four-peat championship game. “There may be other teams that duplicate it, but I don’t know. It’s so tough to do. I’ve talked to so many coaches about it. It’s really hard to repeat. There is so much pressure.”
NLA 2011 graduates and team captains Kati Stodolka (second base) and Rebekah Schmidt (pitcher) played on all four of the Eagles’ state championship teams. In addition to Stodolka and Schmidt, 2011 seniors Lauren St. John (shortstop), Natalie Schad (catcher), and Lauren Anders (outfield) played key roles in the four-peat championship run. Four of the five grads are now playing college-level softball.
2011 was NLA’s sixth straight state tournament appearance, ending their state championship season with a 24-4 record. The Eagles competed in their first-ever state tournament in 2006 and were Class A runner-ups in 2007 prior to the four-peat run in the 2008-2011 seasons.
Last year’s record-setting season will be a hard act for this year’s fledgling Eagles team to follow. Having no seniors, the 2012 team is very young. Taking the helm as captains are junior Nicole Johnson, sophomore Amanda Heidmann, and freshmen Valerie Hohol and Malorie Giere. According to NLA assistant coach Keith Stein, almost everyone will be playing new positions this year. Likely changes will be Johnson moving to the infield, Heidmann moving to shortstop, and Giere taking up catcher duties. The torch has been passed from longtime ace Rebekah Schmidt (NCAA Div. I pitcher, Drake University) to Hohol, who will move to the circle to handle the majority of the pitching.
Also returning to this year’s Eagles team and likely playing new positions are juniors Morgan Frazier and Kayla Sauer and sophomores Chloe Westlund, Jess Lamb, and Marta Lehn. Freshmen Theresa Baranick and speedster Sydney Steele round out the roster of returning players.
Although a young team, the cupboard is far from bare. Eight of the returning Eagles played, and Heidmann and Hohol each started, on both the last two state championship teams.
Even though this is a rebuilding year for the Eagles, the team is looking forward to a fun and exciting season.
“Our team goals have not changed, and with hard work we expect to contend for the conference and section titles again,” said Heidmann.