B-teamers Kelsey Hermanson and Carley Hoscheit warming up on Monday afternoon.
B-teamers Kelsey Hermanson and Carley Hoscheit warming up on Monday afternoon.
After tying for first place in the SEC last year, the Spring Grove/ Caledonia softball team expects to challenge 2011 co-champ Houston for the top spot again in 2012, Lion head coach Michelle Anderson reported last week.

Anderson is heading into her 22nd season at the helm. Her overall record is 245-183. She said speed, depth and great attitude are the strong points for the Lions.

The 2011 squad graduated 4 of 10 starters but has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Last year's B-team was undefeated at 13-0, and the junior high went 20-5-1.

Seven returning starters will anchor the team, led by All-Conference senior Amanda Heberlein (1B, P) and All-Conference senior Julya Diersen (utility outfield).

Seniors Taylor Elton (IF), Kayla Krueger (2B), Amber Betz (3B) and Shannon Doering (IF) will be joined by ninth-grader Samantha Bratland, who also won All-Conference honors in 2011.

Last year, Bratland went 12-4 with an ERA of 1.51. She pitched 106.1 innings and had 64 more strikeouts than walks, fanning 134 batters. Bratland also batted .448 with 18 RBI. She was the first eighth grader selected for the SEC All-Conference squad in six years.

Heberlein's primary responsibility was first base, but she also served as a back up on the mound. She batted .404 as a junior with 23 RBI in 18 games. Half of her hits last year went for extra bases with one home run, 6 triples and 6 doubles.

Diersen was the only outfielder nominated to the SEC first team. Outstanding on defense, she also hit .275 with 12 RBI.

Reserves and newcomers that Anderson expects to step up in a big way include senior Megan Sheehan; juniors, Cara Stemper, Teresa Becker and Angie Augedahl; and sophomores, Lottie Augedahl, Marie Doering, Taylor Augedahl, Lauren Rusert and Lexie Bearbower.

Anderson said the team traditionally gets off to a late practice schedule, thanks to either the girls from Caledonia or (this year) Spring Grove heading off to state tournament basketball.

Concerns are filling in for some players who are nursing basketball injuries, but, "We have a number of people who are capable of playing a number of positions. Our challenge will be to find the right places for the right people to help us have success."

Some key match-ups will be playing the Hurricanes and an April 27 date at St. Charles. Anderson said another interesting date is April 21, when the team will get to play in the Onalaska Luther Tournament in Wisconsin.

Luther High and La Crosse Aquinas are local powers the Lions will face in that tourney.

The 2012 Spring Grove/ Caledonia softball team schedule can be found elsewhere in this week's Herald, or stop by and pick up a full color schedule with all spring sports team schedules at Merchants Bank or the Spring Grove Herald.