Hard work paid off for softball team

Out work. Out play. Out last.

That was the motto of the 2013 Milaca softball team and it described the grittiness the team showed as it overcame a slow start and claimed the Section 6AA East Sub-Section title and advanced to the Section 6AA Tournament.

Despite having its first eight games either postponed or cancelled because of the wet, cold spring and having little outdoor practice time, the Wolves rebounded to win their final four regular-season games. They extended that winning streak by topping St. Cloud Cathedral 12-8, top-seeded Paynesville 8-5 and second-seeded Holdingford 11-8 to win the sub-section title.

That streak came to an end in the Section 6AA Tournament where Milaca lost to Staples-Motley 8-6 and eventual 6AA champion Pequot Lakes 13-3.

“This team showed that work does have its rewards,” said coach Randy Johnson, who registered his 200th softball coaching victory when Milaca topped Foley 7-4 May 2 at Foley. “We came a long way after our slow start.

“The team could’ve gotten discouraged but it didn’t. And that paid off with a great finish.”

Milaca finished 10-10 overall and 5-7 in a rugged Granite Ridge Conference.

“Playing the tough teams in the Granite Ridge made our team better and helped us get ready for the sub-section,” said Johnson.

The Wolves graduate just two seniors but both made important contributions to the program.

Sadie Hunt was a three-year starter at first base while Sara Warren was a key member of the pitching staff, sharing starter duties with sophomore Hannah Johnson this season.

“Both will be a challenged to replace,” said Johnson. “But, our younger players really began to develop this season and they love the game.

“They have the competitive spirit coaches look for in a team. I am excited to watch these players continue to improve over the summer and get ready for next spring.”

2013 Team Awards

•Most Improved Player: Sophomore second baseman Rachel Airhart.

•Defensive Player of the Year: Senior first baseman Sadie Hunt.

•Batting Champion: Junior catcher Natalie Bernard (.467 average).

•Hustler Award: Sophomore shortstop Alex Ploeger.

•All-Conference: Hunt, Bernard, Ploeger.

•Honorable Mention All-Conference: Airhart, sophomore center fielder Kristina Loegering, Hannah Johnson.

•All-Section: Bernard, Warren, Hunt.

•St. Cloud Times All-Area Team: Bernard.

•All-Conference Academic Award: Ploeger, Airhart, Johnson, sophomore Paige Quaintance, junior Jessica Hohnwaldt, sophomore Makenzie Horrigan, sophomore Malayna Sikkink, junior Claire Larsen, ninth-grader Olivia Kragt.

•All-State Academic Team Gold Award presented by the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

•2013 Captains: Hunt, Warren, Bernard.

•Letter-winners: Hunt, Warren, Bernard, Hohnwaldt, Larsen, junior Ori Scherer, Loegering, Ploeger, Johnson, sophomore Megan Bremer, Airhart, Horrigan, Quaintance, Sikkink, Kragt and ninth-grader Kaylee Rothanburg.