SOFTBALL: Hanson, Jacks cope with spring season passing by

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Bemidji High School pitcher Maddie Hanson (9) throws a pitch in a 2019 game against Grand Forks Red River at the high school. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- For months, Maddie Hanson woke up before the sun.

The Bemidji High School softball ace, along with catcher and fellow senior Emma Stanoch, has been in the gym to practice her pitching by 5:30 a.m., twice a week since November. Come January, position players went in as a team for batting practice.

“We’ve been working really hard to, instead of being behind when the season started, to be ahead of the other teams,” Hanson said. “We’ve been doing our part and doing our job. … We did all the stuff we needed to do.”

Now, she has to hope all that work can count for something.

Hanson, like all of her softball peers across the state, is left in suspense as the fate of her season hangs in the balance. The Minnesota State High School League has suspended all activities until at least May 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which still poses a very serious threat to eliminate the spring sports season altogether.


“We were so excited for this year,” Hanson said. “The last month has been really hard on us. It’s been really hard to go from ‘We’re so excited for the season’ to ‘Oh, we maybe aren’t going to have a season.’”

The Lumberjacks certainly had unfinished business they planned to address in 2020. After winning the 2018 Section 8-3A title, the program’s bid for back-to-back crowns ended in heartbreaking fashion to Detroit Lakes in the 2019 championship series . Now stockpiled with seniors and a veteran in Hanson to anchor the rotation, Bemidji was poised for a run at redemption.

“We had a really good opportunity to go to state this year,” Hanson said. “I’ve never been on a better team than I have this year. I love those girls to death and I miss them like crazy.”

Hanson has already made a name for herself in the circle. As a junior, she owned a 3.24 ERA over 93 innings and struck out 49. All were team bests.

Her arm, paired with offense from the likes of Gracie Fisher, Anikka Takkunen, Keena Kondos and Stanoch, among others, figured to be a potent combination for opponents. But if the current climate is any indication, they may not have the chance to prove it.

“When we got told that we probably aren’t going to be able to go back, it really, really sucked and hurt,” Hanson said. “It really hit home because this is our sport.”


Hanson opted against playing hockey again this season so that she could focus on softball. But even as the spring sports window continues to narrow, Hanson is holding out.

“I have hope and faith, and I hope everyone else does,” she said. “Mentally, it’s really hard for everybody. It feels like the world is kind of ending. But I know it’s not. It’s just trying to stay positive and keep doing what you can do.”

From sunrise workouts to turning heartbreak into motivation, Hanson has done all she can to prepare. But nothing could prepare anyone for this.

“Last year, we lost in the section championship,” Hanson said. “How were we supposed to know that could be our last game? We never got a Senior Night, we never got all these things. How were we supposed to know that could have been our last pitch, our last at-bat? We never got our last anything.

“This year was supposed to be our year.”

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Maddie Hanson celebrates her go-ahead double with the Bemidji dugout during the 2019 Section 8-3A championship series at Detroit Lakes. (Pioneer file photo)

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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