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Perham softball opens with Park Rapids Area

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The 2016 season was a struggle for the Perham softball team and it hopes to erase the memories from a season ago when they open the new season with former Mid-State Conference rival Park Rapids Area at Arvig Park on Tuesday, April 4.

The Yellowjackets finished the 2016 campaign with an 8-13 record overall and a 7-5 mark in the Heart O’Lakes Conference. The season was marred by injuries, which tested the Yellowjacket depth at pivotal positions.

“If you look at the win loss record, I don’t think it tells you what kind of team that we had,” Perham softball head coach Tyler Doll said. “We were cruising along pretty well and then we lost our pitcher. From there it was scramble time and we found a seventh and eighth grader to come up and pitch for us. They hung in there, threw strikes and had a couple of really good performances. However, over the course of the season, you can’t do it with a seventh and eighth grader. It was a down year if you want to say that, but we had some girls get some good experience.”

The Perham lineup returns several familiar faces and has the potential to put up some runs. Hanna Ekse returns after a strong sophomore campaign. Cierra Olson returns in the middle of the lineup and Mattie Scheidecker returns from an injury she sustained last year.

Mara Leslie returns to lead the pitching staff after struggling with an arm injury last year. Katie Johnson and Katie Zepper are back on the hill as well. That will help the Yellowjackets manage the innings for Leslie and keep her arm fresh for the season.

“They look really good. Mara looks really good and both the Katies came in looking good,” Doll said. “Having three varsity pitchers is totally new for us, but it should help everywhere.”

Doll said there are a quite a few spots open for playing time, which is something the program has not seen over the past few seasons. The past two seasons, the Yellowjackets have graduated six players who have started for multiple seasons.

Scheidecker leads a group of four seniors for the Yellowjackets. Teri Harthun, Katelyn Pederson and Erin Winter are expected to be key contributors for the Yellowjackets during the 2017 season. Doll expects a high scoring affair when they open the season with the Panthers at Arvig Park. The Yellowjackets dropped an 11-7 decision in last year’s contest. The Panthers went 23-3 last year and were knocked off by Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the Section 8AA Championship.

“We are going to have to outscore them,” Doll said. “They beat us up pretty bad last year and the previous year we beat them 12-10 or something crazy like that. We know we have to score a bunch of runs. I’d rather have that type of game to start rather than a 2-1 or a 1-0 game. There will probably be a lot of mistakes and a few miscues, but I want to see a lot of runs and how we handle the pressure.”

First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. at Arvig Park in Perham.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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