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Softball: Park's Delaney Young doing it all for the Wolfpack

Slugging senior shortstop Delaney Young holds the section trophy high as she and teammates pose for a photo following last week's state-tournament clinching win over Eastview. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia

Park head coach Bob Loshek was shaking his head at star slugger Delaney Young.

With just one out and the bases loaded in the second inning against sixth-ranked Eastview in the section finals, Young had just missed her best chance of putting Park up, possibly, 5-0.

"When you're a Ms. Softball candidate, you're only going to get one pitch," Loshek said to nobody in particular.

And Loshek was right. Young suffered a rare strikeout on the play. She redeemed herself four innings later with a run-scoring single that put the frosting on the cake of a 6-3 state-clinching win by the Wolfpack.

It's been a big-year for Park all around, and especially for Young, Park's multi-talented slugger and softball star.

One of seven finalists for the Play Ball! Minnesota Ms. Softball award, Young has done it all for the third-ranked Wolfpack this season. She hit for average, has 16 extra base hits and time after time delivered clutch plays with her bat and with her glove for the 23-1 Wolfpack.

Young will lead Park to the Class AAAA state softball tournament in Mankato this week where the Wolfpack enter as the No. 1 seed.

It's the third consecutive state tournament for the Wolfpack and Young feels they're due for the big week.

"I'm feeling so great," said Young. "I feel like this is our year and I feel like we're looking good and we're hitting the ball well and I'm so excited.

"I have high expectations (for state), Young added. "Every year we've gone we've always lost the first game and I think we just need to go out and get the first one because I just have a feeling this year that it's going to be good."

Joining Young as Ms. Softball candidates are Kailey Ahlstrom, Prior Lake; Megan Baniecke, Forest Lake; Emily Hansen, Buffalo; Abby Lien, Eastview; Mary Pardo, Blaine; and Maddie Schwartz, Chanhassen.

Winners of the Ms. Softball award will be announced at the awards banquet June 17 at Target Field.

Young will play softball at Augustana University next season, joining former Woodbury star Ashley Mickschl and East Ridge standout Christina Pickett.

Young is also under consideration for all-state honors as a shortstop. And why not, her stats speak for themselves.

As of the end of May, Young had a .571 batting average, eight doubles, two triples and six home runs, including three homers which gave Park a lead in the last inning.

She's walked 30 times, including 17 intentional walks and one memorable intentional walk with the bases loaded.

Young has struck out only three times this season. She has one sacrifice bunt, two sacrifice fly balls, and three stolen bases. She's scored 34 runs and has 32 RBI from her leadoff position.

"Delaney has been absolutely awesome," said Loshek. "She came up as an eighth grader, played a lot of ninth grade B-squad ball, got to pitch a little bit for everybody. By the end of the year we had to bring her up because we were missing that big bat in our lineup. She didn't hit like she does now. She hit the ball hard, but had a lot of work to do. And Delaney has been one of those players, one of the handful of players that I have seen over 30 years of coaching, that has truly gotten better every year.

"She got to be really good as a freshman, and all-state first baseman honorable mention. But all of a sudden (she) got even better as a sophomore. (As a) junior, we needed her at third and we didn't know if she could play third since she was such a good first baseman. First-team all-state at third and now she's at shortstop and she's up for all-state again because she's such as good athlete, a phenomenal athlete."

Playing a brand new position this season, she has committed just three errors at shortstop.

"First base is like my true love, and I love it there," said Young. "And then last year our third baseman left so my team needed me at third. And then this year we didn't have a shortstop so I watched a lot of YouTube videos and I worked on it and now I'm playing shortstop.

"When I was little I always wanted to play shortstop. But when I told people that they always laughed at me. They didn't think I could play shortstop."

No one is laughing now.

Young comes by her softball prowess through a combination of good genes and lots of hard work. She's the daughter of Park Hall of Famer Darcie (Dietz) Young and has been coached since her T-ball days by her dad, Park assistant Tony Young.

"They don't push, but they lay it out there — how good do you want to be?" said Loshek. "And Delaney has just risen to the challenge."

Park has won two conference crowns, three section titles and has gone 23-3, 20-7 and 23-3 the last three seasons with Young swinging away in the lineup.

Young believes this is the best Park team she's played on.

"We're just hitting the ball better and I feel like we all just connect a lot better and I feel like we're all just having a lot more fun."

More fun in Mankato is the next goal.