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Softball preview: Irish optimistic heading into season

Rosemount’s Anna Hinderaker warms up before the first practice of the season Monday at the Irish Dome.

The Rosemount softball program continued trending upward last spring, following up five- and six-win seasons with a 10-8 mark that included two section tournament wins.

With six returning starters, including pitcher Gabby Sprang, back in the fold, head coach Tiffany Rose is optimistic the Irish can continue to improve in 2014.

“We’re going in with great team chemistry. The girls love to be together and that makes them easy to deal with. It makes it easy to focus on softball and getting better,” Rose said. “We have tons of returning players who are ready and excited to get started.”

Among those returning players is a pair of honorable mention all-conference selections, Sprang and outfielder Anna Hinderaker. Sprang finished with a 7-7 record and allowed just 17 extra-base hits all spring in her first varsity season as an eighth-grader, and Hinderaker combined speed and power while hitting .397.

Also returning to the lineup are third-year starting shortstop Nichole Johnson and a trio of seniors, catcher Sarah Jacobs, third baseman Karly Kirchgatter and outfielder Ericka Tamminen.

The rest of the lineup will be filled out by players who saw time at a variety of positions last season. Madi Van Sickle was a reliable hitter and utility player in part-time duty a season ago, as was Madi Moran. Nina Kayfes provided speed off the bench last year and could take on a larger role this season, as well.

The rest of the varsity roster is up for grabs. The Irish are holding evaluations this week at the Irish Dome.

“We just need it to all come together. We probably have three or four girls who are going to be great, and then some new girls on the bubble we need to step it up and do what we need them to do to put us in a great position,” Rose said.

The Irish also have some depth on the mound as freshman Hailey Martinez is back to relieve Sprang.

“Pitching will be a strength for us with two freshman pitchers who both saw time on the mound last year,” Rose said.

The Irish host Farmington for a scrimmage today at the Irish Dome. Their first game is scheduled for April 4 at Eagan.