Valley City High School softball coach Jason Lindgren is the first to admit that his team is plenty young.
With only five seniors, there are numerous freshmen and sophomores that contribute to the Hi-Liners’ success.
But what the team may lack in age, the girls make up for in experience.
“You’re counting on a lot of younger people but they, the sophomores for example, have been playing a lot since they were 8th graders, they saw time when they were 7th graders, so they’ve got a lot of varsity experience,” coach Jason Lindgren said. “It’s not new to them.”
The Hi-Liners start their season at 4 p.m. today with a varsity game against Red River at the softball complex near Ellig Field. Junior varsity will be played afterwards.
The Hi-Liners return enough experienced players that a casual fan may not know the difference. Of the 16 players from last year’s team, 14 return, including the team’s eight position players. The only girls graduated from last year are current VCSU pitcher Paige Brandvold and role player Amanda Cole.
Otherwise, it’s largely the same team that gave the school its first softball state tournament berth last year, eventually finishing sixth.
For that reason, Lindgren has pushed his team to simply expand on last year.
Among the assets the team returns are catcher Dierra Diegel and outfielder/pitcher Jessica Denholm, both sophomores and All Eastern Dakota Conference players last season.
Deigel is starting for the third straight year and led the team last year in RBI, doubles, triples, slugging percentage and total bases. She also brings an experienced view behind the plate.
“She’s probably going to be what makes the team go and if you can keep her happy behind the plate, everybody else is going to be happy,” Lindgren said.
Denholm led the team in runs scored (tied with Diegel) and home runs last year, but also is among the team’s top outfielders.
The Hi-Liners also return five seniors, including Keely Fogarty at second base, Jenna Coghlan at shortstop, Amanda Tangen at third base, as well as Meagan Beattie in right field and and Allison Baasch in center.
Sophomore Danica Diegel rounds out the defense at first base.
The only question the Hi-Liners are working out is who will fill the void in the pitching circle.
Lindgren expects Fogarty to fill the role, with Danica Diegel or Deholm also vying for the spot.
No matter who ends up as the top pitcher, the team has a deep bench of players, including Madison McDaniel, Paula Andel, and Sadie Klingenberg, ready to fill the holes.
All of it creates a team with an intresting dynamic and plenty of possibility.
“I’m excited just to see where we go,” Lindgren said.