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Farmington’s Amber Doyle goes through hitting drills during the first day of practice Monday at Boeckman Middle School. Doyle was an all-conference performer for the Tigers during last year’s run to the state tournament.

Softball: Tigers in search of pitching

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sports Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

The Farmington softball team returns nine players from last year’s team that reached the Class 3A state tournament.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the two graduates from that 20-win team were all-conference performers and played the two most critical positions on the field. Catcher Toni Hunsinger and pitcher Ashley Betzold are now playing together at St. Mary’s University, leaving Farmington head coach Paul Harrington to look for reinforcements to fill out his otherwise experienced lineup.

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“Any time you have that kind of turnover where you start a year not having a lot of pitching experience on the mound, it’s a learning experience for everybody,” Harrington said. “We probably won’t have as many strikeouts, meaning they’re going to hit the ball more and we’re going to have to play good defense. But you never know who might step up.”

Two of the Tigers’ top options to fill in in the center of the diamond are Maddie Muelken and Meghan Silber. Muelken stepped in at first base last season and is one of the team’s top power hitters and Silber pitched for the JV team last spring.

“They have the inside track, but we’re looking at everybody in the program. Nothing has been decided,” Harrington said. “They’re the two leading candidates.”

There are also a few candidates to step in behind the plate. Among them is Emily Berdan, who played both catcher and outfield last season.

“We have a few options there and Emily can play just about anywhere,” Harrington said.

The Tigers have varsity experience to rely on everywhere else on the field. McKenzie Nelson (third base), Taylor Yousse (shortstop), Jordyn Keprios (second base) and Muelken (first base) are back on the infield and all-conference performers Amber Doyle and Carly Esselman are joined by Molly Berdan in the outfield. Doyle was the team leader in RBIs and Esselman led the Tigers in runs scored.

“Defensively, we feel good about the kids coming back,” Harrington said. “We have a lot of experience in the infield and all of our outfield back from last year. We were young last year with an eighth-grader in left, a ninth-grader in center and a 10th-grader in right.”

Despite that young lineup, the Tigers finished second behind Shakopee in the Missota Conference. Harrington expects the Sabers to once again be the favorite in the league’s final season before it disbands.

“They’ve won it many times. Chanhassen could also be up there as they have a legit pitcher. They might make some noise, too,” Harrington said.

This year’s captains are Keprios, Yousse and Molly Berdan.

The Tigers opened the season with practice Monday morning at Boeckman Middle School. They’ll take the field for the first time today for a scrimmage against Rosemount at the Irish Dome and participate in two more indoor scrimmages in Eden Prairie before the scheduled season opener April 3 at Red Wing.

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