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St. Croix Central softball needs a growth spurt

St. Croix Central’s Ana Erickson (9) gets a lead off first base as the pitch heads toward home plate during the Panthers’ 11-10 loss to Glenwood City last Thursday.

Pitcher and catcher are arguably the two most important positions in softball.

Those are two positions the St. Croix Central softball team has to fill this season. Kali Armagost was one of the top catchers in the area and Kelly Harrington was a two-year starter at pitcher. Their graduation major voids for the team to fill.

With just one senior on the team, the Panthers are looking for a large class of juniors to step forward and take on major roles with the team this season.

The Panthers began their season last week, losing games to Alma-Pepin, Glenwood City and Prescott. The game against Glenwood City was the only Dunn-St. Croix Conference contest among the three.

Abby Harrington, Kelly’s younger sister, and senior Nicole Nogal are taking on the Panthers’ pitching duties this season. Second-year St. Croix Central head coach Mindy Rudiger said the pitching would likely be a “50-50 share” between the two.

The season started on a positive note, with the Panthers scoring two runs in the first inning of their season opener last Tuesday against Alma-Pepin. That was the only high note of that game for the Panthers, as Alma-Pepin charged back for a 17-2 win. Rudiger wasn’t upset over the loss because Alma-Pepin is a perennial power that beat the Panthers 22-0 a year ago.

The Panther runs were scored when Angel Vermeersch singled home two teammates who had walked to start the inning.

Central’s offense found its footing last Thursday, losing a slugfest to Glenwood City 11-10. Glenwood City got the early edge, scoring five runs in the second inning. The Panthers put together a major charge in the final innings, scoring five times in the final two innings.

Marissa Arthur showed she’s ready to be a major force in the Panther lineup during Thursday’s game. She went 4-5 at the plate, driving home three runs. Four other Panthers: Vermeersch, Harrington, Cassie Claessens and Nogal each had two hits in Central’s 14-hit attack.

The bats were also working well for the Panthers to a degree on Friday, when they lost to Prescott 9-2. The Panthers had nine hits in the game.

“It’s the timely hits we need to work on,” Rudiger said.

The Panthers scored once in the second and third innings. Claessens singled and scored on a hit from Sadie Buckel in the second inning. Nogal singled to start a threat in the third inning. It was followed by a double from Arthur and an RBI-single from Jami Ruvelson, but the Panthers couldn’t get anything more out of the threat.

After starting the season with three home games, the Panthers are now in the midst of a string of road games. They will play at Colfax on Thursday, followed by a game at Mondovi next Tuesday.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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