BY BOB SAN
Maple Grove softball coach Jim Koltes had lots of nice things to say about his 2012 team that took second place at the state tournament June 8. But he saved his highest praise for the eight seniors who ended their career in the state championship game.
Seniors Kylie Bratten, Melanie Johnson, Cayli Sadler, Kirsten Johnsrud, Kaia Carlson, Sara Dominicak, Mandi Mauch and Alex Horton ended their fabulous high school softball journey, but they elevated the Crimson to new heights and left marks on the program in many ways this season.
The Crimson won a school-record 24 games and captured the conference and section titles and achieved the program’s first No. 1 ranking ever. Success had followed these seniors through their days at Maple Grove.
"That group when they were seventh graders in the program they went 20-0," Koltes recalled. "We moved them to the sophomore level as eighth graders and they went 19-1. We then moved them up (to varsity) and we’ve been to two state tournaments with those kids with a second-place and a four-place finishes. How many kids get a chance to say they did that. We have a great group there."
Some of the seniors also set many individual records. Sadler, especially, had an amazing season during which she broke many school pitching records. Sadler said she knew coming into the season she would be counted on to be the top pitcher so she took on the challenge and worked very hard during the off-season to better herself. She overcame some injuries to enjoy a superb season that earned her numerous team and individual awards.
"The biggest thing is she is just a full-out competitor," Koltes said. "She knows the game, she knows how to pitch. Everything about her, her demeanor and confidence, all those things make her the player she is."
Koltes said Sadler’s season was even more remarkable considering she had to battle injuries.
"A lot of people don’t know that earlier in the year her arm was not feeling well and she worked through that," Koltes said. "She didn’t pitch much for us in March and even in the beginning of April until we got to the regular season. The first time she went seven innings was in the first game against Andover. Two weeks ago before section her arm started to act up again because we had a lot of games and she battled through all that."
Despite the injuries, Sadler managed to set several school records, among them single-season strikeouts and wins. She thus put her name next to several all-time Crimson pitching greats.
"We had Ali Pearce, unbelievable. Megan Kubesh, unbelievable. Shanna Sticka, unbelievable," Koltes said. "Cayli is the latest. We have another one coming up next, Sydney Smith. She is unbelievable. Wait ’til you see her."
The seniors are moving on with their life but they left the program in good shape.
"We have a super strong group coming back next year and we have another really great ninth grade group and we will start seeing those kids in the line-up next year," Koltes said.