New Life Academy softball: Eagles go 2-0, challenge for conference titleThe New Life Academy softball team had a strong week, going 2-0, and are now preparing to make a final push for what they hope will be their seventh-straight MCAA conference championship.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
The New Life Academy softball team had a strong week, going 2-0, and are now preparing to make a final push for what they hope will be their seventh-straight MCAA conference championship.
The youthful Eagles are currently 6-0 in conference play, with their three final conference games all coming in this week.
Coaches Mick Ramey and Keith Stein said they are pleased with the significant progress the team has made since the start of the spring practices and said they are starting to see the hard work put in by many of the players in the off-season really starting to show dividends.
“We have always had a tradition of girls working hard in the off season to make themselves better athletes, and better softball players” said Ramey. “It is rewarding to see so much of this work start to pay off. Since we have only two upperclassmen on the squad, we knew our success this season would depend on everybody chipping in and significantly elevating their game from a year ago. And, from our seventh-graders all the way through our two juniors, we have seen that really start to come to fruition.”
On Tuesday, the Eagles traveled to play Trinity and were stymied at the plate for much of the game until their bats came alive late in a 7-1 conference win. Freshman pitcher Val Hohol kept the Eagles’ 1-0 lead in tact from the first through fifth innings as the Eagles struggled to get any offensive punch going. For the game, Hohol had 12 strikeouts and allowed only two bloop singles. The Eagles tried to manufacture some offense in the second inning with a bunt single by sophomore Marta Lehn and infield single by seventh grader Kayla Binsfeld but both were left stranded. Finally, in the sixth and seventh innings the Eagles busted out with six more runs, largely due to a couple of hard smashes from junior Nicole Johnson. Johnson twice drove balls deep into the outfield of the large ballpark and was able to round the bases each time - providing the firepower to put the game away late. She now leads the team with three home runs on the season.
Following the win, the Eagles faced Concordia Academy-Roseville (9-5) at home on Friday and shut out the good Class AA opponent 4-0 with what Ramey said may have been the team’s best effort on the season.
Hohol scattered only three hits and struck out 10 in the win - including a key strike out in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. The scoring for the Eagles started in the second inning with a double by freshman catcher Malorie Giere and an RBI single by Johnson. Johnson then doubled in the fourth inning - and scored after a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Jess Lamb and a misplayed fly ball off the bat of seventh-grader Kayla Binsfeld. The Eagles then added two more runs in the fifth inning through a combination of a hit batter, two walks and singles by both Hohol and Giere.
“I was really happy with the progress we showed in the Concordia game,” Ramey said. “We caught a glimpse of what our team can be like if we hit, pitch and field well all in the same game. Hohol was really hitting her spots and our catcher (Malorie Giere) did an outstanding job of catching and framing. This was a very nice win for our team, and I think the girls grew in confidence and are maturing as a team.”
For the season, New Life has four players hitting over .440 for the season. Hohol leads the team in batting with a .455 average and hits with 20. Giere, sophomore Amanda Heidmann and Westlund are all batting .442 with 19 hits on the year as well. Hohol and Heidmann lead the team in RBI with 14 apiece.
This week the Eagles will host Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity and Heritage Christian Academy, and travel to Bethany Academy to close out their regular season and conference schedule.