The Two Harbors softball will begin its 2018 season in unfamiliar territory with two new, young pitchers taking the field for the Agates.
For the past several years, the pitching duties mostly went to Ayla Lemke, but with the hurler now graduated and playing basketball at Concordia-St. Paul, Coach Chris Lemke is looking at two young starters who have never thrown a varsity pitch.
As practice begins, sophomore Emily Olson and eighth-grader Jasmine Heikkila are getting most of the practice throws. Their coach believes he will get quality innings out of both. He also acknowledges there could be some rough patches during the season, too.
"The game usually goes the way the pitcher and catcher goes," he said. "I think both these girls can be good pitchers, but everyone needs experience."
Fortunately for the Agates, the team will have a ton of experience guiding them through the season in the form of senior catcher and captain Brenna Gelineau.
Gelineau is one of just four seniors on the team, along with co-captains Maddy Homstad and Carina Hebl as well as Aurora Johnson. Hebl, however, missed all of last season with a foot injury and has not played since her sophomore campaign.
Anchoring the defense will be sophomore Kate Thomasen, who has two years of experience at second base and is among the best fielders on the team. Junior Tori Bott will also provide three years of varsity experience at first base.
Two Harbors will have to rely on scoring and good fielding from Thomasen and most of the lineup as the young Agate pitchers adjust to their roles on the varsity squad.
Hebl looks to be one of the better contact hitters on the team and could be the lead-off hitter once the season rolls around, while Bott and Olson provide some power hitting to the Agate line up.
Coach Lemke is also excited about the new net system they've moved inside that will help the team start taking swings earlier than usual this season. He and assistant coaches Luke Heikkila, Tom Bott and Mike McGrath are working the get the team ready, and more importantly, keep them healthy.
Hebl wasn't the only Agate to miss significant playing time due to injury, with Brianna McGrath, a 2017 graduate, also losing the entire season to a knee injury. The staff is diligent in making sure the players stretch properly before every practice to avoid a repeat of the rash of knee and foot injuries that derailed the basketball and softball seasons last year.
"Hopefully, everyone can stay healthy and we can figure out the puzzle," Lemke said. "I think we have enough talent here for a good team, but we'll see."