N.D. CLASS B SOFTBALL: Building on success
GRAFTON--Disappointment was tempered by optimism a year ago for Cindy Holt and her team. Grafton came up one win shy of its first North Dakota Class B state high school fastpitch championship, losing 3-2 to Central Cass in the state tournament ti...
GRAFTON-Disappointment was tempered by optimism a year ago for Cindy Holt and her team.
Grafton came up one win shy of its first North Dakota Class B state high school fastpitch championship, losing 3-2 to Central Cass in the state tournament title game. That was the disappointment.
The optimism was the fact that the Spoilers had only one senior, Emma Papenfuss, in their starting lineup.
"We were so close to winning. We knew we were a good team,'' Holt said. "I think the girls saw that there was always next year. I think they were wondering what we could do with almost everybody coming back.''
A year later, the Spoilers are heading back to the state tournament and are three wins shy of the state title that has eluded their program.
Last year's title run may have been a bit of a surprise. The Spoilers were only the No. 4 seed going into the East Region tournament and finished the season only two games over .500 (11-9).
Grafton is 14-5 this season. The lineup includes returning starters Megan Osowski (.420 average, 15 RBI, 21 SB), Jillian Hanson (.368, 20 RBI, 21 SB), Taylor Stegman (.484, 31 RBI, team-leading 12 extra-base hits), Brandi Niemann (.405, 13 RBI), Ali Martinson (.353, 28 RBI), Jaden Hanson (.361, 12 RBI), Karly Kennelly (.357, 16 RBI) and Betsy Jiskra (.317, 17 RBI). The only new regular in the batting order is first-year player Bailey Beneda (.313).
Every returning regular has numbers that are close to or exceeding what she produced last season. But numbers don't tell the whole story.
"The kids are so much more mature physically and mentally,'' Holt said. "They've improved by leaps and bounds from last year. And they're playing with more determination.''
Grafton averages 8.8 runs a game. But the strength of the team starts on the mound with Megan Osowski. The senior is 12-4 with a 2.41 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 101.2 innings. No player has shown greater improvement; Osowski took a 5.08 ERA into last season's state tournament.
"The pitcher can't do it all,'' Holt said. "Megan is a dominant pitcher with her ability to keep hitters off balance and make it hard for them to hit the ball solidly. But she needs help behind her. And our defense has been good.''
Grafton softball at a glance
Coach: Cindy Holt.
Record: 14-5, No. 2 seed from East Region.
Class B state tournament opener: The Spoilers play Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark, the No. 3 seed from the West Region, in a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal game Thursday in Fargo.
Recent state tournament history: The Spoilers haven't missed a state tournament since Class B softball became an NDHSAA-sanctioned sport in 2012. The Spoilers finished second last season.
Regular batting lineup: Sr. P Megan Osowski (.420, 15 RBI, 21 SB), sr. SS Jillian Hanson (.368, 20 RBI, 21 SB), soph. 2B Taylor Stegman (.484, 31 RBI, 12 SB, team-high 12 extra-base hits), soph. C Brandi Niemann (.405, 13 RBI), soph. DP Ali Martinson (.353, 28 RBI), sr. RF Jaden Hanson (.361, 12 RBI, 10 SB), sr. CF Karly Kennelly (.357, 16 RBI), sr. LF Betsy Jiskra (.317, 17 RBI), jr. 1B Bailey Beneda (.313), jr. 3B Paige Rudnik.
Pitching regular: Osowski (12-4, 2.41 ERA, 100K in 101.2 IP).