By John Sherman

It took the Hopkins and Minnetonka High girls softball teams only an hour and 11 minutes to complete the Lake Conference opener April 16 at Minnetonka’s Legacy Field.

Eighth-grade pitcher Signe Dohse was the star of the game, as she kept Minnetonka’s hitters off balance with an array of pitches. Minnetonka countered with good pitching performances from sophomore Molly Oehme and junior Maya Schrof, who split duties for the second game in a row.

“We have a nice mix of players with six seniors and some good young players, who are working really hard,” said Hopkins’ first-year head coach Carl Yancy.

Dohse is one of those young players making an impact, and her battery mate is returning All-Lake Conference catcher Lauren Granger, who is still only a ninth-grader.

“I love working with Signe,” Granger said after the game. “We balance each other. I work hard for her, she works hard for me.”

Dohse has taken over for last year’s pitcher, Natalie DenHartog, who is now starring in the infield for the University of Minnesota women’s team.

“I don’t think anyone could fill Natalie’s shoes,” Dohse said. “She is a great softball player.”

Now that DenHartog has moved on to the next level, Granger is the player teammates rally around. Like DenHartog, Granger is a perfectionist.

“I only got one hit today,” she said after the Minnetonka game. “I have to start seeing the ball better.”

Hopkins’ six seniors are all expected to provide veteran leadership this spring. They are Morgan Hawley, Elizabeth Helling, Emma Kurus, Katherine Salcedo, Maci Shatirishvilli and Parker Stoddard.

Junior Annika Crouser plays second base and provides leadership in Hopkins’ infield.

Stoddard had a base hit for the only RBI of the win over Minnetonka. She is a veteran of two Hopkins state-tournament teams.

“I see some of the same characteristics in this team that I saw in the two teams that went to state,” Stoddard said. “Our young players are very mature, and they did a lot of work in the off-season.”

Minnetonka is reloading after losing seven of its nine starters to graduation, but early signs are encouraging.

In their opener, the Skippers posted an 8-5 win over Orono.

“We are learning against very tough competition,” said Tonka head coach Mary Beth Wiig, who recorded her 400th career win last season. “Both of our pitchers are very steady, although they’re different [in the way they pitch]. And they are very coachable.”

Dependable senior shortstop Kate Murray is Minnetonka’s most experienced varsity player. The other returning starter is junior Alena Milligan in center field.

Wiig commented on the short time it took to play the Lake opener.

“The Hopkins pitcher was very consistent and walked only two batters,” she noted. “Our girls only walked one, and neither team made an error. It was just a good, tight softball game.”

On Saturday, April 20, the Royals scored their second Lake Conference win of the season by taking down Wayzata 11-4 at Tanglen Field. Senior Emma Kurus pitched for the Royals.

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Lauren Granger.

Royals freshman Lauren Granger (12) is welcomed back in style after belting an early-inning home run against Wayzata in Lake Conference action Saturday, April 20, at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka. (PHOTO BY MARK TROCKMAN - trockstock.com)

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