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WHS softball team looks to take a leap forward this season

Apr. 4—WORTHINGTON — The Worthington High School softball team is looking to take a step forward this season and it'll hope to do it with an expanded roster featuring a few veterans and a lot of newcomers.

The Trojans are led by second-year head coach Avery Wysong, who previously played softball at North Dakota State University. Her assistant coaches are Rebecca Linder and Jordan Kruse, also in his second year in that role.

WHS struggled in Wysong's first season as they finished with a 1-21 record. This year, the Trojans will look to improve with a much larger roster that features many underclassmen who will contribute to the varsity team.

"Our upperclassmen have done a good job of holding these younger girls accountable and just bringing them in and teaching them the roles of how we do things," Wysong said. "We're still trying to build a culture here too, with Jordan and I being new, but the upperclassmen have done a good job of doing what we tell them and then bringing in those underclassmen, so they know what's going on as well."

Among the talented underclassmen looking to make an impact to the team are eighth-graders Breeta Johnson, Tayler Nickel, Sydnie Van Briesen, Margo Menke and Macie Mahlberg, all of which previously played middle school softball and will be making their varsity debuts this year.

But they all had previous varsity experience for the WHS girls hockey team in the winter. The younger girls have been welcomed to the team well by upperclassmen with much more softball experience.

There are three seniors on the Trojans this year in outfielder Abby Linder, catcher Maddie Petersen and infielder Marin Pederson. The ladder two players played with many of the underclassmen on the hockey team, so they already have a good connection with them.

"I don't really feel like it's any different, personally," Petersen said about playing with the younger girls. "I played hockey with half of these girls so I'm used to them, but I think everyone else is adjusting pretty well to being with the younger girls."

Petersen, who is committed to playing softball at Minnesota West along with Linder, said she looks to improve her batting in her final high school softball season.

"I didn't have very good year last year, but just from practice this year, I think it will be pretty good this year," she said.

A couple of experienced juniors on the roster are pitcher Bailey Ponto and shortstop Hannah McNab. For McNab, a multisport athlete who was also in tennis and swimming, shortstop is her primary position but she sometimes pitches as well. She stands out both in the field and in the batter's box and fielding was an area she said could continue to see more improvement.

"I'd like to improve my throwing," McNab said. "Lately it's been a little crazy, but I've definitely worked on getting them more accurate and harder. And I think everyone in general, that's what we practice most honestly is throwing with accuracy."

Wysong said the team's focus early on through practice has been on the fundamentals, such as fielding and throwing with accuracy. Other apparent parts of practice have been good communication within the team along with player growth.

"Practices have definitely gone really good this year," McNab said. "Even though we have a younger team, they've all grown to like the higher expectations of what we need to do at practice and with those higher expectations, it's making them better as players."

The Trojans are scheduled to open the season Saturday with a home game at Centennial Fields against Albert Lea. After that will come five consecutive games on the road.

With a bigger roster featuring talent and a coach with a year under her belt, the Trojans could take a leap this year.

"They've come together really well already, like, preseason. We even haven't had a game yet but the girls get along and have fun at practice," Wysong said. "So I just think building that chemistry and then being able to compete, even if we don't go out and win every game, these girls are going to go out and compete and give it their all."