Softball: Park, East Ridge continue building strong programs this season
The softball season is always something head coach Bob Loshek looks forward every year. The Wolfpack have had a couple memorable seasons with runs to the state tournament.
Last season, Park reached the state championship game and lost to Stillwater with a 5-1 final score. It was a hard way to end the season, but the Wolfpack are looking to return once again to that game and come out with a championship trophy.
"Over the last few years, our culture has grown with the great players we've had in the program," Loshek said. "Their work ethic in practices and games have shown and it's allowed this program to build each and every year."
The Wolfpack ended the 2018 season with an 18-1 overall record and a 15-1 conference record. That allowed Park to tie with Forest Lake on top of the Suburban East Conference.
This regular season allowed Park to have a top seed in the section tournament and the Wolfpack swept in four games to earn the section title. They defeated Apple Valley, East Ridge and Eastview twice to gain a spot in the state tournament.
After defeating Lakeville North and Centennial in the quarterfinals and semifinals at state, the Wolfpack faced off with a red hot Stillwater team that earned the win that day.
"We learned what it takes to reach that point in the season," said senior Saren Croker. "We want to get back there this season and we need to focus on each game ahead."
Park brings back some key leadership for the 2019 season with Croker and Madi Meduna as well as two strong pitchers in Bryanna Olson and Samantha Fohrman.
The players agree that it's nice to have one strong pitcher for the season, but having two is great to mix up lineups and create more opportunities to win.
"The ability to throw in two different pitchers at any point gives us a confidence boost as a defense," Meduna said. "That confidence leads to our bats and creating a lead for them early in the game."
Park has already started on the right foot with two wins to begin the season. First, the Wolfpack earned a 16-2 win over Providence Academy on Tuesday night and then came out with a 7-4 win at Mounds View on Thursday night. The schedule continues to stay busy as Park prepares for conference play this upcoming week.
After a third-place finish in the conference last season, the East Ridge Raptors are looking to continue to climb up the standings in the 2019 season.
The Raptors finished the 2018 season with a 12-7 overall record and a 9-7 conference record. The placement in the standings helped East Ridge earn a strong seed in the section tournament.
During section play, the Raptors defeated Rosemount in the opening round with a 6-1 final score. After that win, East Ridge lost to Park and Eagan in one-run games to end their season.
"We're excited to have a strong senior class coming back this season," said senior Sidney Zavoral. "We know what the season is like and we're going to take it one game at a time to hopefully reach our goals this year."
The players aren't the only people excited for this season as head coach Afton Murray is getting prepared for a fun season. Mainly, she's happy to get on the field in the beginning of April because last season was filled with snow and cancellations of many games.
She's also looking forward to this senior class and she hopes they are able to finish out their careers on a high note.
"We had a great season last year," Murray said. "It's great to have many returners coming back and building from last season."
Murray is looking to these seniors to be leaders for the younger players that will replace them in the 2020 season. She knows these girls are excited to lead by example and help the younger players in any way to continue growing the program at East Ridge.
The senior players are ready to not only show their leadership in games, but also in practices and at school. The team chemistry has built over the years for the Raptors because of the amount of time the players see each other off the field.
Whether it's in the hallway at school or in get togethers at homes, these girls enjoy spending time together as a team.
"We, as seniors, want to leave a lasting impact on this program before we leave," said senior Josie Dorf. "I can't wait to get back on the field this spring and play with some great players for one common goal."
East Ridge took that first step with a 14-0 win at White Bear Lake to start the season. The Raptors will have a busy upcoming week with both conference and non-conference games.