by Eric Oslund
It was a tough start to the 2017 season for the Rogers softball team after they turned over nearly their entire roster and returned just three players with double-digit varsity at bats.
They started their season 1-2, but have gone on a 4-0 run since that time, outscoring their opponents 33-3. It all started on April 13 when they defeated Monticello 7-0; then they had to cancel their game against Rosemount on April 15, but came back to beat Cambridge-Isanti 15-0, North Branch 4-3, and Wayzata 7-0.
The biggest reason for this complete turnaround? Defense.
“Well, No. 1, we’re catching the ball. And if you catch the ball, all of a sudden teams have to work really hard to get runs,” head coach Jerry Bruns said. “I believe our pitching’s done a good enough job too, if we make them get three hits to score a run, I think our pitching’s good enough to hold them down. The biggest thing is very few errors since we started 2-2. And a little bit of experience. We’re learning that if we make a mistake to get over it, and make the next play.
“Realistically, after we were 2-2, we went into practice and we just started working on making the routine play. We didn’t work on any turning double plays, we didn’t work on anything like that in practice. We just said, ‘You got to get an out.’ That starts it.”
Minimal errors and pitching has been the cornerstone of this turnaround, with Melea Bruns getting most of the work on the mound. She hasn’t allowed a run in games she has started since the team’s game against Buffalo on April 7.
Kaitlynn Lloyd started the Royals 4-3 win over North Branch, and then Melea Bruns came in for the final inning and a half. And even though he had to pull her, the head coach was very happy with how she performed.
“She hadn’t pitched in a while, so I felt like she might have run out of a little gas towards the end of that game,” Jerry Bruns said. “Probably just from inactivity. Pitchers need to throw to be solid.”
While the defense has been great, teams cannot win games if they aren’t getting any runs. They scored over seven runs in three of their last four games, and a big reason is because the girls are gaining more experience and beginning to think less.
“They’re starting to figure out what they need to do as the batter too,” the head coach said. “Been pretty happy, and we’ve been swinging the bat hard and not so worried about what we’re doing with the ball, but hitting it hard and making the other team field. Put pressure on the other team, and we’re seeing a lot of good results.”
The Royals resume play on Tuesday, April 25, on the road against St. Fracis, as long as the rain holds off long enough for them to play.