With a core group of seniors who have played together for many years, Princeton High School softball coach Mandee Allen is hoping for an improved season over last year’s 5-16 mark, including a 3-10 Mississippi 8 record that placed the team seventh among the 10 teams.
With 10 returning letter winners there is experience at almost every position and Allen, a former PHS player who is in her 10th year as head coach, expects that to be a strength of the team.
Pitching is the name of the game in fast-pitch softball and senior Danika Rademacher, who had a 3-6 record in 2018 and pitched a team-leading 50 innings, is the most experienced pitcher on the team. Junior Anna Dahlen was 0-1 in 15 innings last season and will get part of the pitching duties.
Both players pitched in the season-opening loss to North Branch and they will also see playing time at first base. Rademacher hit .340 in 2018, third on the team, and Dahlen .148.
The major share of catching will be done by sophomore Riley Turnquist who sat out the 2018 season with an injury.
The rest of the starting infield will have seniors at every position.
Kennedy Johnson will play at second and at first. She hit .182 and had one of the team’s four home runs. Lexi Braaten will be the starting shortstop and may also play some second base if Johnson is playing short. She led the 2018 team in hitting with a .404 average. Allie Skuza, who hit .211 last season, will play third base.
Senior Angela Lindell, who was second in hitting at .373 last year, led in extra-base hits with six and runs scored with 13, and also had two home runs, is the starting center fielder.
Junior Olivia Olson, who had 25 at-bats in 2018, is the left fielder and senior Hallie Chmielewski, a .259 hitter in 2018, is the right fielder.
Returning junior letter winners Abi St. George (infield, catcher) and Grace Erickson (outfield) should also see some playing time.
The team batting average in 2018 was .254 and Allen hopes that will improve, as well as the team scoring more than the 2018 average of 2.3 runs a game.
“Defense is our strength,” Allen said. “and we hope to improve our hitting, which was our downfall last year.”
After playing only one game so far (one was snowed out last week), Allen said it’s hard to get an accurate read on this season. “We scrimmaged Becker, Apollo and Tech two weeks ago and our bats were hot. We came out aggressive and our pitchers pitched well.”
She sees Chisago Lakes, with a good pitcher, as the top team in the Mississippi 8 this season. The Wildcats have already beaten defending champion North Branch, a 13-4 winner over Princeton on April 5.
Allen is hoping for a top-five finish in the conference and a good showing in the section tournament.
“We have a group of seniors that have played together since they were young and if they play to their potential,” she said, “we will be a top contender.”
Lee Dettmer, a former PHS head coach, is Allen’s assistant. Kate Rysavy is the JV coach, Anna Jennrich is the ninth-grade coach, and Bob Lundell, who began working with PHS pitchers in the 1990s, is a volunteer coach. There are 38 out for softball, the most in recent years.