The old adage about saving the best for last was apropos for the 2013 Concordia Academy softball team. The Beacons finished a game above .500 in the regular season but then went on a deep run in the section playoffs.
This year’s team returns only three letterwinners so that formula of peaking at playoff time might be in play again.
“Although we do not have many returners, there is a lot of experience with the game for the newcomers,” said Concordia head coach Gina Tupper. “I think it will come together well this season.”
The Beacons’ strength this year lies in the battery of senior pitcher Courtney Larsen and senior catcher Claire Heilman. Both are captains.
“They are a battery that has worked together for years,” said Tupper, who is in her sixth season as the Beacons’ head coach. “They are good friends, humble, talented and work hard year-round to improve.”
Larsen is back after recording 62 strikeouts and walking only nine batters in 69 innings of work in 2013.
“Larsen has excellent command of her pitchers and is able to throw many different spins as well as mix speeds and hit spots,” Tupper said. “She’s been working year-round on both her pitching and batting and comes in as a leader in both.”
Heilman is expected to contribute both offensively and defensively. She batted .367 with five doubles, two triples and two home runs while driving in 17 runs in 2013.
“Heilman is a top returner in both her offense and defense,” Tupper said. “She is solid behind the plate both in her blocking and in her throws to bases.”
Concordia’s third returning letterwinner is junior Jillian Bloomer, who led the team with 17 stolen bases last season. Bloomer played second base in 2013 but could find herself in a new position this spring.
“Bloomer is a very aggressive base-runner and began work on being a slapper last season,” said Tupper. “We expect her to start to see things start to click after that first year of working through changing sides of the plate.”
Tupper also said Bloomer possesses a strong arm which is probably more suitable for the left side of the infield or the outfield.
A couple of newcomers to keep an eye on this season are sophomore Becca Erdman and freshman Abby Miggler. Erdman, a pitcher and infielder, saw some varsity time last year and comes into this season physically stronger in all areas from competing as a three-sport athlete. Miggler brings to the team a strong, accurate arm, good hitting mechanics and experience playing competitively.
“Another strength is that this team if full of coachable players with positive attitudes that are willing to work hard,” Tupper said. “The sky is the limit with a group of girls like this.”
In addition to using the regular season as a springboard to the playoffs, Concordia is also looking to battle for supremacy in the Tri-Metro Conference, which is generally strong and features perennial state-tournament contenders in St. Anthony Village, Visitation and St. Croix Lutheran.
With a limited number of returning players, defense will be a concern early.
“We’ll need to pull our defense together quickly on balls to the outfield and covering bases,” said Tupper.
A handful of games featuring Tri-Metro Conference teams were scheduled for this week, but Concordia isn’t one of the conference teams in action. The Beacons are hoping to get a scrimmage in on Friday but their first games aren’t until next week.
Concordia opens the season April 9 at Brooklyn Center and its first home game is set for April 10 against PACT Charter. A tournament hosted by Tri-City United in Montgomery, Minn., is on the docket for April 12.
Brian Meyers can be reached at email@example.com .