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Softball: Perham looks to avenge postseason heartbreak from last year with experienced group

After a crushing 8-7 walk-off loss to Thief River Falls in the Section 8-2A tournament, the Perham softball team is reloaded to compete for conference and section gold.

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Perham's Steph Meissner waits at first base in the Yellowjackets game against Wadena-Deer Creek June 1, 2021, at Arvig Park in Perham. Meissner returns for her senior season this spring for the Perham softball team.
Perham file photo

PERHAM – The Perham softball team finished the 2021 season on a bittersweet note with a pair of playoff wins over Wadena-Deer Creek and Barnesville. After suffering a heartbreaker at the hands of Thief River Falls, the Yellowjackets are gearing up for an even deeper playoff run in 2022.

The Prowlers ended the Yellowjackets’ season in walk-off fashion. After taking a late lead, Thief River Falls bounced Perham out of the Section 8-2A tournament. However, the Yellowjackets return six letter winners from a year ago in hopes of getting second-year head coach Jason Groth his first winning season.

“Our expectations are to compete for a conference and a section championship,” Groth said. “We continue to want to build the program up and take another step forward this year. We want to be peaking at the end of May and into June and, hopefully, go on a nice postseason run. This is a great group of athletes that are willing to work hard.”

Perham finished the 2021 season 11-13 after dropping four of the last five games in the regular season. However, after stringing together a few postseason wins, the Yellowjackets return with some confidence.

Seniors Hannah Hunter, Hannah Zachariason and Steph Meissner join juniors Marissa Hopwood and Brianna Hofmann and sophomore Ryleigh Mickelson as the six starters back from a year ago. Groth also expects Mallory Greiff, Morgan Burkman, Morgan Smith, Delaney Kellogg, Autumn Newman, Hanna Beck and Brittney Loerzel to make an impact at the varsity level.

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The Yellowjackets are eager to get the bats going as soon as they can get outside to play games.

“Offense, I think, will be one of our strengths,” Groth said. “We have a lot of girls that can put the ball in play. I think we have a good mix of speed, and we hope to be an aggressive team once we get on the basepaths.”

For the Yellowjackets to be successful, they will look to improve in the field early on. Groth believes there are always ways to limit mistakes on the defensive side of softball.

“I think our defense will be an area that we have to consistently improve upon,” Groth said. “We have the ability and the talent to make plays, but consistency is one thing that has hurt us in the early season. With that being said, being stuck indoors for more than a month of practice, it’s really tough to gauge. Once we can get outside, we will be able to assess more of our strengths and areas for improvement.”

Across all sports, the Heart O’Lakes Conference is as competitive as ever. Softball is no exception. Hawley and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton tied for the HOL crown last season, while Hawley advanced to the Class 2A state tournament out of Section 8.

“Hawley and DGF return quite a bit from their teams last year that both won 20-plus games,” Groth said. “Hawley is the defending Section 8AA Champion, and DGF has been the standard that teams in the area have modeled themselves after. Thief River Falls is a strong team and well-coached team as well. Frazee, even though they have a new head coach, is a traditionally strong softball team and always has high expectations.”

Perham is scheduled to kick off its season with a road doubleheader against the Nuggets on Apr. 28. The first home action is scheduled for May 5 in a doubleheader against Barnesville.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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