Esko softball uses summertime to improveIf you wanted to know the future of two perennial Polar League softball powers, Wheeler Field was the place to be on Monday night. There, the Barnum and Esko U-16 teams met each other, with Esko coming out on top by a 6-3 score.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
If you wanted to know the future of two perennial Polar League softball powers, Wheeler Field was the place to be on Monday night.
There, the Barnum and Esko U-16 teams met each other, with Esko coming out on top by a 6-3 score.
Like Barnum’s team previously profiled in this paper, Esko’s young team is chock full of players from Brad Emanuel’s Esko High School varsity.
Also like Barnum, the Esko varsity team is very young and needs time to grow into its roles. Hence, the importance of summer softball.
“We’ve got about half the team as varsity players,” Esko Coach Russ Saralampi said. “Esko has a very young varsity team, but we picked up a few U-14 players as well.”
Further like Barnum, Esko’s team is a recreation-level team rather than a tournament-level team. The Lake Superior Fastpitch League is the only summer ball for many of his team’s players.
“Some kids play on more than one team in the summer but this team is a rec team,” Saralampi said.
That said, players like Morgan Perra, Abby Saralampi, Shawna and Danny Johnson, Kayla Garson and Ashley Bergerson are on this team, all varsity players for the Eskomos.
“Most of these kids are going into ninth and 10th grade,” Saralampi explained.
Esko finished its regular season with a 6-8 record.
“Our wins came together in the end,” Saralampi said. “We had lot of girls on the team who were comparatively inexperienced but we played well at the end of the season.
“Probably six of my players could have played on a U-14 team this year,” Saralampi continued. “We did add two seventh-graders who turned it up at the end of the season, hitting the ball and making some plays. They stuck in there and stepped up.”
For these girls, as for many summer league players, the summer softball season provides a bridge between the spring varsity and fall varsity sport
“Most of these kids are very good athletes,” Saralampi said. “They love the game and some even play on tournament teams.”
Before fall sports, though, the team has league playoffs scheduled next week, and Saralampi is optimistic for their competitive futures.
“(Coach) Jerry Moran and I have had these kids since fifth grade,” Saralampi said. “We both just really enjoy these kids. We feel this is a core group that will take Esko varsity softball down to State someday.
“I firmly believe they have the potential to get there (the state tournament) before they are out of high school,” Saralampi added. “The girls that aren’t varsity players are junior varsity players, with one track runner playing summer ball. They are just a good bunch of athletes and good kids.”