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Woman dies after being thrown from boat on Cass Lake

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Cass Lake-Bena looks to two seniors for leadership

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The Cass Lake-Bena softball team will be young this year but coach Rod Benson is hoping that his two seniors, Autumn Brunelle and Emma Rousu, can help lead the team to success.

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"Our weakness is our inexperience," Benson said. "We are going to have to be flexible in terms of people playing different positions.

"We do have two players who have played softball at Cass Lake-Bena for years and we will look for them to be our leaders."

Brunelle will be the team's top pitcher while Rousu is expected to catch and play shortstop.

Among the other returning veterans are juniors Joy Smith and Steph Masten. Smith is a pitcher/infielder while Masten can catch and play infield.

"I expect these four players to guide the others," Benson said.

Although young Benson believes that the Panthers can be productive on the mound and at the plate.

"I believe our pitching can lead the way," he said. "And I'm also expecting our offensive production to be better than it has in a few years. I'm looking for our bats to come alive this spring."

If everything works out Benson believes CL-B can flirt with a .500 record and the goal is to be playing its best softball at the end of the year.

"The kids have great attitudes and are giving the effort," Benson said. "Hopefully that will translate into some wins."

The softball program at Red Lake continues to grow and this spring coach Randy Holthusen was welcomed by about a dozen varsity candidates, half of whom are back from last year's team.

"We have many newcomers to the program but everybody is eager to learn the game and enjoy playing softball," Holthusen said.

Among the Warriors expected to help lead the way are junior catcher Mari Cobenais, sophomore pitcher Faleisha Desjarlait, sophomore shortstop Taylor Dickenson, eighth-grade pitcher Saleasha Roy and seventh-grade pitcher Averi Holthusen.

"Everybody is positive, upbeat and dedicated," the coach said. "We are focusing on pitching, hitting, fielding and all of the fundamentals. We want to teach the pros and cons of fast pitch and so far the kids are enjoying softball."

A team will only go as far as the pitching takes it and Holthusen hopes that his pitchers can provide a spark.

"Pitching will be the key," the coach said. "We will need to throw strikes and hit our spots.

"We have high hopes this year," the coach continued. "We feel that we can win a few games this year if we work hard and dedicate ourselves. I think the players are getting the hang of playing softball and I believe we have enough talent to make the plays defensively and hit the ball."

Small victories which, hopefully, will lead to team wins is what spurs the Blackduck softball team.

Andra Vaughn is in her third season as the Drakes coach and she said her greatest reward is seeing the expression on an athlete's face when she makes an outstanding play.

"It is also knowing that an athlete has done their very best at the end of the day and see the reward their efforts bring," Vaughn said.

Blackduck is coming off a one-win season but Vaughn and her players are taking an optimistic approach to the spring.

"We have seven returning varsity players," Vaughn said, adding that seniors MollyAnn Exner and Ashley Stomberg are the captains.

Joining Exner and Stomberg as returning starters are senior Jamie Magoon, sophomore Katie O'Rourke and freshman Sadie Radke.

"Our pitching will be our biggest challenge," Vaughn said. "We have an entirely new pitching rotation beginning with Brooke Mistic who will play her first game as a varsity pitcher.

"Christa Hanson also will be making her debut as a pitcher and our other pitchers will be Taylor Levy and Shelby Sorheim."

Beginning his fourth year as head softball coach, Matt Hanson feels last year's team was much better than its record showed.

"We have been improving," Hanson said. "We won only one game my first year and then went 7-10. Last year we were 5-14. I scheduled us against some pretty tough competition last year," he said.

Experience should be a strength but Hanson said the Mustangs do have holes to fill.

"I hope to see us play well in the field," he said, "and we should be a good hitting team. If things come together, we could finish above .500."

Hanson said he expects his team to play smart softball and wants to see the girls cut down on the mental errors.

"That is going to be key for us," he said.

"Our team has only three seniors, (Kristi Geerdes, Brittney Heck and Kendra Krogseng) but we have a huge class of eight juniors," Hanson said. "A few sophomores and one ninth grader round out our varsity team.

"It's also a joy to coach this group of young ladies," Hanson added. "They work hard and have great attitudes."

The Flyers graduated nine players from last year's softball team and coach Mike Larson knows that 2011 will be a rebuilding season.

"We return only three letterwinners but we did have a very successful junior varsity season last year and many of those players have moved up to the varsity," he said.

The three letterwinners are senior Katie Skersick, junior Andrea Hood and sophomore Hanna Neeland.

Skersick is a first baseman while Hood plays infield and outfield and Neeland pitches and plays in the infield.

Another sophomore, Sean Benson, also is expected to pitch.

"Pitching could be our strength," Larson said. "Both Hanna and Sean have experience. Hopefully, our defense will be a strength as well."

Inexperience, however, will be a weakness.

The roster includes six other juniors, Aimee Cosca (IF), Kylie Gerbracht (IF/OF), Cassidy Ham (IF/OF), Meghan Kaiser (C), Sierra Spray (OF) and Cory Ulrich (OF).

Also on the squad are sophomores Jenna Kaiser (IF), Shaniah Kaiser (OF), Lydia Smith (C) and Hannah Quade (IF/OF).

"We're young and we'll learn as we go," Larson said. "Our goal is to make progress and be at our best at playoff time."

The Wildcats have two seniors on the squad, Erica Tomahawk and Sydney Kloehn.

Also on board are juniors Holly Machado, Kelli Corson, Renny Alia and Leah Nelson and freshmen Amber Baker, Jacey Hegg, Kara Shadrick, Keahna Wilson and Kim Corson.

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

The Wildcats have two seniors on the squad, Erica Tomahawk and Sydney Kloehn.

Also on board are juniors Holly Machado, Kelli Corson, Renny Alia and Leah Nelson and freshmen Amber Baker, Jacey Hegg, Kara Shadrick, Keahna Wilson and Kim Corson.

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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