All of last year, the Northern Freeze Softball team had one week of practice together as a varsity team. The COVID-19 pandemic had hit, putting what proved to be an end to the 2020 season before games began.
The team did some summer softball together last year, but it was limited and didn’t include much practice time, Freeze Head Softball Coach Tom Maki said.
“We had a really good returning team (in 2020), a group of seniors that graduated and juniors and sophomores who are now seniors (and) juniors,” Coach Maki said, “but yeah, everybody was really disappointed (when last season was cancelled).”
Playing its last spring softball game together as a team at the Section 8A Tournament back on May 28, 2019, the Freeze Softball program is to return to the field for official spring softball game action nearly two years later. As of April 12, the team was scheduled to open the season on March 13 at the Roseau Rams and open its home schedule at home versus the Warroad Warriors on April 15.
Coach Maki discussed what he has seen from his team in the opening weeks of practice, and what it will take for his team to advance back to the section tournament and improve off its finish from nearly two years ago. He also highlighted the type of team he envisions this one being, the team’s goals, and a position-by-position breakdown.
Despite the disappointment, he also saw something else from his team following the cancellation.
“They all continued to take it in stride, just as we have all year,” Coach Maki said. “With all the athletics and activities, we’ve made adaption after adaption. It changes daily sometimes.”
Following that 2019 season, the program would lose three seniors to graduation, in Marissa Nelson, Ellia Bass, and Isabel Pearson. It also lost three seniors following the cut-short 2020 season, including Tessa Anderson, Kylie Shetler, and Amanda Wollin.
This season’s team features five seniors, including Jadyn Johnson, Zoey Magner, Brooke Fredrickson, Eylie Homme, and Jocelyn Bennett. In the beginning weeks of practice, Coach Maki has seen leadership from these seniors.
“They’re being not only leaders in action, but they’re speaking out at practice,” Coach Maki said, “getting the younger kids lined up for those who don’t know what drills we’re doing… and really taking ownership of their team.”
Besides leadership, another strength for this team going into the season is pitching. Coach Maki highlighted how his team has “good” varsity level pitchers, including seniors Eylie Homme and Zoey Magner, and freshman Kaydence Augustine. As for another strength, Coach Maki pointed to experience.
“Eight of the nine girls that are returning have all started,” Coach Maki said. “And with that in mind, I have to remember that they started as freshmen and sophomores.”
These experienced players missed out on a year of playing time.
“While they are seniors and juniors, they don’t necessarily have the benefit of the playing time from the past year,” Coach Maki said, “and so I’m going to have to remember that as well. And then we’re going to have to rely on some freshmen infusion.”
They also have a motto for this season— one related to a “winner keeps the field type attitude.”
“We have a motto this year of ‘winner stays,’ and that’s when you get to the section tournament,” Coach Maki said. “So we’ve just got to (be) laser focused and do what we do best— play defense, (and) get timely hitting and good pitching.”
Going into this season, this group, Coach Maki said, has the goal of reaching double-digit wins— 10 to 12— and earning a home playoff game.
Maki added, “We’ll take our chances once we get to the sectional tournament.”
To see the complete story, read the April 15 issue of the North Star News in print or online.