PREP SOFTBALL: MVL has big potential

NEW ULM – While statistics are about accuracy, toss out the 3.70 earned runs average Minnesota Valley Lutheran softball pitcher Carlie Maasz supposedly has in three years of starting.

Shave at least a run off that stat for two reasons.

First, three years of less than stellar defense that has caused Maasz more than her share of four and five-out innings. Second, MVL’s home field is a notorious wind tunnel that would give Willie Mays fits.

Still, Maasz takes a 7-1 strikeout to walk ratio into her senior and final season as the Chargers’ only pitcher, with memories of her first game as a freshman still clear as a bell in her mind.

“My first game was against Wabasso and it was cold,” Maasz recalled. “They also started a freshman pitcher. I was grateful for the long bus ride to help me focus. I haven’t cared for the long bus rides since.”

Maasz can pinpoint the landmarks in her path as MVL’s all-time top softball pitcher.

“Mentally, I had to adjust to a faster game, coming up from junior high. It was a big shock,” she said. “Now, I feel like my mind is the same speed as the game.”

Despite three years of starting and developing as a player, Maasz is still working at getting better.

“I always spend time in the weight room,” Maasz said. “I’m very confident in what (pitches) I have and I’m very excited about the year.”

When Maasz graduates and attends Morningstar College in Sioux City, Iowa next year, (yes, she’s been in contact with the Morningstar softball coach and will have to see what her freshman schedule allows for athletics) Maasz has gone from a legitimate No. 9 hitter as a freshman to a legitimate No. 2 batter for Dave Biedenbender’s squad.

“We have lots of potential,” Biedenbender said. “We have lots of pieces coming back from last year. We have 22 players in the program, 11 are juniors and seniors and 11 are freshman and sophomores. We’ll be playing the upperclassmen, but we may bring someone up from time to time to get them some experience.”

Experience is something MVL has in spades in what is arguably the most important aspect of softball, the battery. Maasz and catcher Charlotte Pfingsten will be sharing their third year together as mound and plate mates, with Pfingsten slated to be the Chargers leadoff hitter after batting .313 last year with 21 hits and 14 runs batted in.

Maasz will bat second, with shortstop Karissa Schlottman hitting third and returning after a .381 average in 2012.

Third baseman Mikyla Weilage will be pencilled in at cleanup after nailing 24 hits last year, 10 of them doubles. First base belongs to Melissa Kroells, who will hit fifth, with an outfield of Rachel Kuck, Shelby Hammerschmidt and Molly Maasz rounding out the outfield from left to right.

MVL begins its season at 5 p.m. Monday at Springfield.