by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
They are still a very young softball team with only two seniors, but the Osseo Orioles return many starters and are looking to be much more competitive in the 2014 season.
Osseo coach Eric Ruska welcomes back a solid group of returning starters/letterwinners, including both starting pitcher and catcher.
Senior Ashley Sis returns for her third season as the starter catcher.
“Ashley is one of the hardest working kids on the team, has a quick release, a good arm and has the ability to hit for power and average,” Ruska said.
Sis will catch for junior pitcher/short stop Courtney Calkins, who earned all-conference the last two seasons.
“Courtney is a complete player,” Ruska said. “She has been our main pitcher since she was in eighth grade, yet is a great shortstop as well. She possesses a really good arm, has great game IQ, is our best offensive player who hits for power and average. She led the team in RBI last season.”
Other returning starters include:
Senior outfielder Touria Techam, who is coming off of a season split with the JV team. “Touria is one of our fastest kids. She covers lots of ground in the outfield,” Ruska said.
Junior centerfielder Taylor Bridgeman, who moved to centerfield and moved to the left side of the plate last season. “Taylor will challenge to be an all-conference player this year,” Ruska said. “She is fast, has excellent footwork in the outfielder, a good arm and is our on-base percentage leader.”
Junior Hayley Swanson, who looks to play first base this year. “Hayley has a great sense for the game and is a really good leader both on and off the field,” Ruska said.
Sophomore infielder Kelli Auer, who played the majority of last season at short stop. “Kelly has the tools to become a really good player in our conference,” Ruska said. “She has good range, a strong arm and can play all of the positions on the infield, including pitcher if we need her. She also hits for average and for power.”
Sophomore infielder Allison Tullberg, who played the majority of last season at second base. “Allison has a good arm and footwork for her position,” Ruska said. “She is a classic gap-to-gap hitter not afraid to go with a pitch.”
Freshman outfielder Laine Ruska, who played the last half of the season last year in right field. “Laine has a great arm with improving range,” Ruska said. “She also is a classic gap-to-gap hitter not afraid to go with a pitch.”
The veterans will be joined by newcomers in sophomore Faith Lovcik (catcher and third), junior Maddy Rice-Johnson (first base/outfield), junior pitcher Caroline Meyers, junior Allison Duffy (pitcher/first base), freshman Katie Johnson (pitcher/third base), and freshman Andrea Dienslake (catcher/outfield).
Ruska believes with the experience they gained last couple seasons, the Orioles will be a much more competitive squad in 2014.
“We return a good core of kids from last season, so our learning curve won’t be quite as steep,” he said. “We will be better both offensively and defensively. We are a blue collar type team, working hard for everything we get. This team might be the gutsiest team we have fielded since 2008, there’s not a lot of give up on this team. But we still will be relatively young in terms of number of at-bats against this type of pitching. With only two seniors, we will be looking at who steps up when times get tough.”
Last season, the Orioles finished 8-9 overall and 7-5 in the conference. They lost in the section first round to Champlin Park. Ruska is optimistic the results will be better this spring.
“It sounds cliché, but the goal for this group is to improve upon last season’s successes,” he said. “We were close in a few games that we let slip by and disappeared in big games. Even though the majority of the players were on the field last season, I think it will take this group a little bit of time to get going, but I think once we do and figure it out, we could be a dangerous team.”
Contact Bob San at email@example.com