Milaca Softball Coach Randy Johnson feels those will be two important keys for his team when it begins play in the Sub-Section 18AA Tournament Friday.
“We’ll be looking for overall consistency – hitting, fielding and pitching,” said Johnson. “And, we need to advance runners into scoring position and then bring them home. We need to deliver clutch hits with runners on base.
“We need to play the kind of ball we played in beating a good Little Falls team twice – great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense. We can play with any of the teams in the sub-section…if we’re consistent and don’t have major letdowns.”
The top four-seeded teams will host games Friday at 4:30 p.m. Johnson and the Wolves would love to see one of those games played at Milaca’s Sod Park.
But, the seeding, which was scheduled to take place Wednesday, appears to be a little up in the air.
Johnson felt Albany, 12-1 after last week, would get the No. 1 seed, with Holdingford, 11-6, likely to be seeded second.
After that, the three and four seeds could go to Pierz, St. Cloud Cathedral, Little Falls or Milaca.
Pierz has beaten Milaca, Little Falls and Holdingford, but may finish the regular season with a .500 record. Milaca topped Little Falls twice but Little Falls defeated Cathedral twice. And, Cathedral stopped Milaca two times, including 4-3 in 10 innings last Thursday, May 10 in St. Cloud.
Try to clear up that picture.
“Our loss to Cathedral last week could be a big factor – We’re hoping it doesn’t keep us out of the top four,” said Johnson. “But, we have to be ready to play whether it’s home or away.
“Anyone of six teams has a shot at advancing to the Section 6AA Tournament.”
Two teams, first and second place, from the Sub-Section 18AA tourney will move on to the Section 6AA Tournament, along with the top two placers from Sub-Section 19AA where unbeaten Pequot Lakes is favored to win the title.
The semifinals in the 18AA meet are Monday, May 21, with the top-seeded teams hosting games at 4:30.
After the opening round Friday, the tournament becomes double elimination, with play continuing Wednesday, May 23, at Whitney Park in St. Cloud. Games that day are scheduled at 5 and 7 p.m.
The Wolves’ tentative lineup/batting order Friday will have senior Anna Swanson at shortstop, ninth-grader Alex Ploeger at third base, sophomore catcher Natalie Bernard at catcher, junior Sadie Hunt at first base, senior Ashley Johnson at pitcher, junior Sara Warren in right field, senior Kymee Nelsen at second base, ninth-grader Kristina Loegering in center field, sophomore Jessica Hohnwaldt in left field and senior Jessica Sikkink as the designated player.
Prior to last week’s game against Cathedral, Bernard led the team with a .676 batting average, with Loegering second at .469 and Swanson third at .447. Johnson had a .372 earned-run-average, with 144 strikeouts.
The Wolves, who hosted Ogilvie Tuesday to conclude the regular season, were 9-5 overall heading into that game. Milaca finished 8-4 in Granite Ridge Conference play.
Milaca and Cathedral were tied 1-1 after seven innings. The Wolves scored twice in the top of the 10th inning but the Crusaders answered with three runs in their half of the inning.
Johnson allowed five hits while striking out eight and walking four.
Loegering paced the offense as she had a double and drove in two runs. Swanson, Ploeger, Bernard and Warren each had a single, with Bernard and Warren each driving in a run.
On Tuesday, May 8, Milaca trimmed Princeton 8-1 in a GRC game at Sod Park.
Johnson allowed just two hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Swanson cracked two doubles while Johnson, Warren, Sikkink and Loegering each had one double. Johnson drove in three runs.