Eskomos enter softball season young, yet experienced on the field“We’re young, but we have a lot of experience,” Esko Coach Brad Emanuel said Tuesday night. “We have eight starters back and my expectations are high.”
Although Katyanna Emanuel plays both softball and soccer, the Esko senior said spending time on the diamond is her favorite thing to do.
“I don’t have a lot of options,” she said with a laugh, “but both baseball and softball are just one of those things that bring my family closer together because we all like it so much. Both watching and playing.”
Katyanna noted that it’s common to see her family around the field constantly. Her older sister, Erin, played softball for the Eskomos, while her younger brother, Nick, is on the school’s baseball team this spring.
She said even her mother, Kelly Emanuel, played high school softball. Her father, Brad, who played collegiate baseball, has served as the Esko softball coach for a number of years, as well. Katyanna’s uncle, Huff, and younger cousin, Elle, are a part of the softball team, too.
“Baseball and softball have been a part of our family for so long,” Katyanna said. “We even go and watch random games, all the time.”
A softball addict, Katyanna enters her fifth season with the Eskomos this spring, as the sure-handed second baseman has been on her father’s varsity roster since eighth grade. She’s one of just three upperclassmen, along with fellow senior Steph Miller and junior Dani Johnson.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of experience,” Brad Emanuel said Tuesday night. “We have eight starters back and my expectations are high.”
Coach Emanuel noted that sophomores Morgan Pera, Abbey Saralampi, Shawna Johnson, Kayla Garson and freshman Ashley Bergerson all return.
“For most of them, it will be their third year contributing to varsity,” Brad Emanuel said. “All in all, we have quite a bit of experience back.”
Steph Miller agreed.
“I’m really excited for this year,” said the centerfielder Tuesday night. “We’re young, but we’re strong. Last season we struggled a bit, but it’s a brand new year. If we play how we can play, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
A season ago, that wasn’t the case.
Sporting a 5-12 overall record and getting bounced in the opening round of playoffs, Brad Emanuel said his youthful squad failed to beat their opponents and, rather frequently, beat themselves instead.
“That’s what happened a lot,” he said. “We put ourselves in situations where our defense didn’t get outs and our offense couldn’t get runs in. Good teams can do those things, so hopefully we can learn and improve.”
So far, so good. Emanuel’s crew topped Eveleth-Gilbert 4-2 on the road last Friday in their season opener. Although their home debut with Polar League rival Two Harbors was postponed due to cold weather Tuesday, Miller said she likes where their team is headed already this spring.
“I’m really looking forward to things,” she said. “We’re a strong team. We can all hit the ball and our defense is pretty solid, too.”
As all of his infielders return and all but one outfielder, Brad Emanuel said the Eskomos’ pitching rotation revolves around a sophomore trio in top-chucker Abbey Saralampi, Kayla Garson and Kiana Jablonski.
“Softball starts on the mound and those are three pretty legitimate pitchers,” Emanuel said, “but I can’t say it enough, our main goal will just be to continually get better and better. We want to improve every game.”
His daughter is confident she and her teammates can do that.
“It’d be nice to finish out my career strong, and with this team of ours, I think we can; I really do,” Katyanna Emanuel said. “Last year we thought we were going to win and then all of a sudden, things would just crumble.
“But this year things are looking up,” she continued. “We’re all pumped to play. We have a lot of younger kids, but they are all dedicated.”
Just like the Emanuels.