Young ML-WR team going through growing painsAndrew Miller has a busy summer softball team. Whether the girls are in the gym playing basketball, on the ice playing hockey or at their job working, the Moose Lake-Willow River summer softball team has found it hard to all get together at once.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Andrew Miller has a busy summer softball team.
Whether the girls are in the gym playing basketball, on the ice playing hockey or at their job working, the Moose Lake-Willow River summer softball team has found it hard to all get together at once.
“We haven’t had a consistent group of nine players all summer,” Miller said. “We have a core group of five or six, but we can’t get a consistent full group at games or practices.”
That inconsistency has brought struggles to ML-WR.
They currently sport a winless 0-7-1 record in their eight Lake Superior Fastpitch 18-and-Under League games.
ML-WR played two games Tuesday night at Wade Stadium and Miller said he was on the phone tracking down his team earlier in the afternoon, but due to inconsistency come game time, he had to play some kids at some unfamiliar positions. For the record, Miller had his second baseman playing third, his other second baseman at shortstop and an outfielder slotted at second.
“It was different,” Miller said, “but I think it was good experience for us. We almost had it tonight.”
The team tied Northwestern 5-5 in the nightcap, marking their first non-loss of the season. Although they let their last-
inning lead slip away and are still searching for the first win, Miller isn’t worried a bit.
“Sure, you always want to win, but you have to put things into perspective,” said Miller, who is assisted by Penny Youngberg and Barb Michalski. “This is summer ball and we’re looking to improve. This is the time to get better.”
ML-WR is inching towards improvement, and playing in the U-18 league is a first for nearly all of them. Miller said most of his team played U-16 last summer, while some even played
To Miller, his youthful team is making strides.
“We’re pretty young and that’s what we’re noticing,” he said. “A lot of these kids we face have played a lot of softball
Andrea Youngberg is the team’s catcher. She’ll be a sophomore next fall, and she said the summer league is tougher than ever.
“I’ve played 18s with my sister growing up before and I’ve never seen girls like this. They seem older, more experienced and focused.”
Youngberg is the centerpiece behind the dish for ML-WR, while Sam Johnson does a majority of the pitching. Miller said first baseman Jodi Michalski and shortstop KK Greene are key assets in the infield for his group.
Their outfield, meanwhile, is brand spanking new.
“Our outfield is young,” Miller said. “We’re replacing three girls that have been out there for a long time. They all played last spring for us. We’re learning and it’s a good opportunity for our younger girls.”
Johnson, a senior next fall, is still getting adjusted to the new look.
“We’re getting used to our new team,” she said. “It’s been tough at times, but our main goal is to improve our team. The big picture is to improve our game for next year.”
According to Johnson, that starts with practice.
“Practice is most important to us,” Johnson added. “We have to get out there and get used to each other.”
“We have some newbies,” said Youngberg, who along with her teammates, practices in Willow River on Mondays and Moose Lake on Wednesdays. “And it hurts when not everyone shows up. We just have to get more focused. We’ve improved a little bit, but we can be better. It’s all about practice at this point.”
That’s what the summer is for – getting better.
“We’ve lost our first few games by 10 runs each, one even by 20,” Youngberg continued, “but it was nice to compete with a team tonight. I think we can come around, but we’re just taking it one game at a time.”
ML-WR will have a double-header at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at Wade Stadium. They’ll eventually compete in the ASA Class C U-18 state tournament at Braun Park in Cloquet on July 22-24.
“State is our shooting point,” Miller added, “but it’s just enjoyable coaching these girls. It’s not about the winning or the money or whatever, but about watching these girls grow together and get better throughout the
summer. That’s what’s most