NEW ULM - With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for mangling the title of his Sherlock Holmes classic, the New Ulm Cathedral softball team could be referred to this year as the Hounds of the Seniorville.
The Greyhounds have seven of their nine starters back from last year, but none will be more important than their five seniors, McKinnon Ehlenz, Abby Hauser, Lindsay Simon, Kristin Mohr and Karlee Pfaff.
This is a group with a ton of experience, great chemistry, and most important, a strong desire to bring home a state championship.
"We really want it," right fielder Simon said. "We really hope this is our year." The same thought is echoed by third baseman Ehlenz and catcher Pfaff.
"None of us have experienced a state title," Ehlenz said. "This is our year with five seniors. We have to focus on each game and be examples to the rest of the team."
"Our goal this year is to win state rather than just get to state," Pfaff said. "We definitely have a lot of experience, I think we'll be in good shape, first baseman Mohr said. "We've always had good chemistry because we play other sports together."
Designated hitter and backup to pretty much everyone except pitcher and catcher, Hauser did point out the annual mantra of coach Bob Mertz, though. "We still want to win the conference first and take it from there,"
While Mertz enters his 35th year coaching Greyhounds softball by saying "this is the most athletic group I've ever coached," he also knows no team wins by putting the cart before the horse.
"We didn't win the Tomahawk Conference last year, GFW (Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop) did," Mertz said. "The first goal is to win the conference. There's a lot of tough teams out there this year.
"The two seniors we lost (Paige Pautzke and Lisa Helget) took with them a lot of experience and a ton of hitting. But I like what I see of this team so far," Mertz said.
Pitching will be split between sophomores Leah Krzmarzick and Anna Mohr, who accounted for 147 of the 166 innings played by Cathedral last year. However, because both can hit, Mertz plans on playing them other positions as much as possible when one isn't pitching in order to keep that bat in the lineup.
Center field is the territory of junior Anne Schwarz, who batted .348 while clubbing six homers and knocking in 26 runs, second only to Pfaff's 32 RBI. Second base will mainly be handled by sophomore Morgan Schabert, who got her feet wet as a freshman by playing 72 innings and batting .310.
Left field will be patrolled by sophomore slap hitting speedster Jenessa Rothmeier, who had 28 hits and batted .364. The youngest player will be freshman shortstop McKenna Berdan, who Mertz describes as having "soft hands and a good arm and bat." Rounding out the roster will be junior Megan Guggisberg.
The Greyhounds season will begin at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 3 against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's in Sleepy Eye.