Thunder fastpitch softball in full swingCoach Kerry Rodd predicated that if something needed to happen on the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College softball team, Rachel Sanda would be the first to take initiative. That includes home runs.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Coach Kerry Rodd predicated that if something needed to happen on the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College softball team, Rachel Sanda would be the first to take initiative.
That includes home runs.
Sanda’s over-the-fence blast during the Thunder’s recent trip to the Rosemount Dome was the first for the team during the 2012 season.
However, Rodd stressed that the sophomore leadoff hitter is more than just a hitter.
“She’s the heart and soul of the team,” said Rodd, entering his fifth season at the helm. “She really is our team leader.”
Sanda was honest Monday night, admitting her four-bag round-tripper was the first-ever in her career. Although it came in a losing effort, the sparkplug second baseman said sending one over the fence was a treat.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” said the 5-foot-5 Sanda, not known for her deep alley power. “My job is just to get on base. So, I was rounding second base and then just saw the umpire signaling that it was a home run.”
Sanda said her homer came during her second at-bat in an eventual season-opening 11-9 loss to Northland Community and Technical College last Tuesday morning as a part of the annual opening-day tournament. Overall, FDLTCC lost five of their six contests where, according to Rodd, they defeated only Wahpeton College of South Dakota 7-6 in extra innings.
“I’m not going to gauge anything off of those six games,” Rodd said Monday. “We went down there basically to realize who could play where, and I thought we found that out.”
Returning only three full-time starters from last year’s 14-14 squad, Rodd said the team will again compete in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference and play home games at Braun Park in Cloquet. According to Rodd, his Thunder discovered more about their infield in Rosemount.
There are a number of familiar names playing for this year’s team.
Along with the Cloquet native Sanda, the squad includes plenty of local athletes: AlBrook’s Ashley O’Day; Carlton’s April Broneak; Cloquet’s Hunter Joyce-Nemmers and Denise Rodd; Cromwell-Wright’s Dayna Elmer; Esko’s Savannah Hanson and Kari Palmi; McGregor’s Casey Pierce and Courtney Kruse; and Moose Lake-Willow River’s Katie Youngberg. The team also includes Lizz Bobst of International Falls and Kassi Neary of Hill City.
Rodd noted that his pitching staff has been stellar. Top-hurler Youngberg has struck out 13 batters in six innings, while freshman incomer Denise Rodd has fanned a team-best 23 hitters in 19 innings.
Sanda and Palmi are quick atop the order, while Hanson, Nemmers and Neary have followed with production. Neary hit a home run and two doubles last week, with seven runs batted in.
“She’s our most improved player,” Coach Rodd said of Neary, a sophomore infielder-pitcher. “Everything she hits, she hits hard. It’s really amazing how far she has come. She is definitely a leader for us.”
Neary said she has been playing the sport since third grade and has enjoyed her time with the Thunder over the past two seasons.
“Every minute of it,” she said. “We have a lot of learning to do still, but we definitely have the potential. We just have to keep working hard.”
Qualifying for the only state tournament in the school’s young athletic program’s history a few seasons back, the softball team might head back again this spring. Their leader on the diamond sure thinks so.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Sanda said. “We were only a couple of points away last year. I think we’ll hold our own and be right there in the end.”
If Sanda keeps hitting homers, Rodd likely would agree.
“She’s so quick with her hands and very seldom strikes out,” Rodd said of Sanda. “I’m confident that we’re going to be a better team later than now. And with Rachel, it is like having another coach on the field. She really makes us tick. When she goes, we go.”