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Softball preview: Primed for a turnaround

Don’t let last season’s 10-13 record fool you. The Rosemount softball team wasn’t far from being a 15-win team last season.

The Irish managed to lose a whopping nine one-run games last spring, and with a more experienced lineup and all-state pitcher Gabby Sprang back for her senior season, they’re hopeful more of those close, low-scoring games will go their way this time around.

“It was the story of our season. Some of the more experienced players could get on base, but as we got down the lineup, we were looking for people to get clutch hits and it didn’t happen for us last year,” Rosemount coach Tiffany Rose said. “It’s not all on our young players. It can happen with older players too. We’re going to focus on being more productive at the plate, getting runners over and using our faster players to get into scoring position and get more runs.”

It probably won’t take that many more runs. The Irish lost four 2-1 games last spring, a 1-0 game and a couple of 4-3 games. Sprang, a University of Tennessee signee, added to her school-record strikeout total with 198 punch-outs last year, and closed out the season by allowing just five hits in three section tournament games.

“She’s one of the top five pitchers in the state of Minnesota if not the best pitcher in the state. We know we can win every game Gabby pitches,” Rose said. “She has always dominated her age and I would expect this year will be no different. I would assume she will have another 198 strikeouts if not more.”

Sprang is one of four returning starters who garnered all-conference honors last spring. Centerfielder Danielle Sorenson is coming off a season where she hit close to .400 out of the leadoff spot. Meghan Olson hit over .300 as an all-conference third baseman and Shannon Dawson was an honorable mention pick at second base after hitting around .300.

Other returning players who started varsity games last season are catcher Bri Hollenbeck, shortstop Maria Back and outfielder Lauren Van Sickle. Renee McKinnon and senior Morgan Peterson could both see time after serving primarily as pinch hitters last season.

Pitchers Hailey Sickler and Linnea Ulland are expected to once again back up Sprang in the center of the diamond.

Rose is hopeful Sprang’s pitching and an improved offense will be a recipe for success that will carry the Irish through a challenging section that includes Park, Eastview and Eagan.

“It’s always the goal to get back to the section finals. I think we have a great opportunity,” she said. “We always want to be playing our best softball at the end of the season. If we are, there’s no reason we couldn’t find ourselves in the section finals.”

The Irish open the season at home April 10 against Lakeville South.