Softball RoundupEskomos enter season prepared to win and with plenty of indoor practice time.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Positioned at catcher during the play, Morgan Pera had a front row seat when good friend and Esko teammate Abbey Saralampi broke her right pinky playing softball last July.
“You could hear it pop,” said Pera of the line drive that snagged Saralampi’s finger at third base and immediately stopped play and resulted in a trip to St. Mary’s hospital. “Softball is her life, so when she went out, it definitely impacted her, me, our whole team.”
After surgery, Saralampi sat out the rest of the summer, but the junior right-handed pitcher is fully-healed and ready to return for the Eskomos this spring.
“It was heartbreaking to not be able to play,” Saralampi said. “I feel stronger, but I think we’re all feeling really good this year. For most of us, softball is our main sport, and we’re not the younger team anymore.”
The Eskomos, last year’s Polar League champions, couldn’t have played more in the offseason. According to 11th-year Coach Brad Emanuel, in addition to their summer efforts, the team competed last fall in Cloquet, as well as for several weeks during the winter at the Star Dome in Richfield, Minn., every Sunday.
“[We start] at 7 a.m.,” Emanuel said, noting that the team is working on its sixth week of indoor practice at the school. “All four walls keep coming in and coming in, but I’m just fortunate enough to have these kinds of kids, where — for this whole group here — softball is their love.”
Saralampi and Pera pilot a strong class of juniors, including Shawna Johnson, Kayla Garson and Michaela Rossetti, along with sophomore shortstop Ashley Bergeson and lone senior Dani Johnson at third base, as the Eskomos return seven starters.
“The expectations are extremely high,” Emanuel said. “This league has always had good pitching; but we just have to refrain from beating ourselves, because our pitcher’s pretty good, too.”
“Abbey is a go-getter, she doesn’t give up on anything,” Pera added. “When she injured her pinky, it was just a minor setback.”
Like Esko and neighboring state-returning Cloquet, Barnum also brings back a starting pitcher in Lauren Hultgren. With additional veterans Paige Rilea, M.J. Anderson, Kerra Rowell and Cheyanne Johnson, third-year Barnum Coach Sarah MacDonald — who was married last July — noted her Bombers are enthusiastic.
“They want to be at practice each day they step into the gym or out to the parking lot,” MacDonald said. “It’s tough to tell indoors, but I know I have a bunch of hard-working girls who want to play.”
Joining new coaches at Carlton and Moose Lake-Willow River, Terry Sawdey enters his first-ever season in softball at Cromwell-Wright. Sawdey, who coached the Cardinals’ final baseball team in 2010 before it disbanded, looks to seniors Brandi Peterson, Karissa Sworski and sophomore Kaylan Risacher to lead a team of 11 players that was winless and outscored 288-30 last year.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Sawdey, “but our ultimate goal is to improve and maybe we’ll even win a game or two.”