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PREVIEW: Spartan softball team off to 3-0 start

Superior High School catcher Gabby Gidley turns to fire the ball to first base for a fifth-inning double play after forcing out Northwestern’s Karaline Green (9) at home during the Spartans’14-8 victory over the Tigers Friday afternoon in Brule. (Jed Carlson/

The Superior High School softball team is off to a 3-0 start to the 2014 season.

The start wasn’t totally unexpected as Spartan coach Amy Zembo has plenty of experience returning this season, including six starters.

Leading the way is Jessica Lindstrom, who is coming off a season where she was named the Superior Telegram Player of the Year, Lake Superior Conference all-conference and Wisconsin all-district. Lindstrom will move to shortstop this season and Ari Jago will take over a third base.

Gabby Gidley, also all-conference last season as a sophomore, will take over at catcher; junior Katie Heinen is back at first base; and junior Tailor Schuster is at second.

In the outfield, senior Rachal Fregin is back in center; senior Taylor Nelson is returning from a ACL injury and will play right; and sophomore Mackenzie Kmecik will take over in left.

Freshman Brandie Goldberg is expected to lead a pitching staff that includes Heinen and Shannon Johnstad, a senior. Goldberg was the winning pitcher in all three games.

Rounding out the varsity roster are senior Harmony Clarke and junior Britta Bergstrom.

Graduating from last year’s team that finished 14-5 overall, are Allison Wainionpaa (P), Kari Miller (LF) and Taylor Johnson (C).

“We have a positive outlook on the upcoming season,” Zembo said. “We have a strong hitting lineup, and our defense will be solid once we get some work outside. With our experience and added pitching depth, we expect to compete for the conference title and go deep in the playoffs.”

Zembo’s formula seems to be working so far this spring as the Spartans swept a doubleheader from Menomonie and then defeated the Northwestern Tigers 14-8 Friday in Brule.

As expected, offense hasn’t been a problem for Superior, with 30 hits and 30 runs in its three wins. Providing the power has been Nelson with two home runs and Heinen with one. They both hit three-run homers in Friday’s win over Northwestern.

The Spartans jumped all over the Tigers with six runs in the top of the first inning. They added three runs in the second inning, two more in the third and three in the fifth.

Five errors aided the Tigers, who scored three runs in the first and fifth innings and one run apiece in the fourth and seventh.

“One of the things we have to work on is our defense,” Zembo said. “We had to move some players to different positions.”

Nelson also doubled Friday; Schuster added two hits and scored two runs; Jago had three hits and scored three runs; and Fregin, Clark, Bergstrom, Allie Thul and Kmecik had a hit apiece.

For Northwestern, Maddie Spangenberg hit a home run, singled and scored three runs; Lexi Janigo had three hits and an RBI; Green doubled and singled; Cheyenne Johnson singled twice; Samantha Clark doubled, singled and had one RBI; Klobluchar hit a two-run double; and Laryssa Vik and Aliex Friend both singled.

Goldberg’s complete-game victory included four strikeouts and four walks.

Johnson suffered the loss, allowing nine earned runs with five strikeouts and seven walks.

Nelson’s three-run home run came in Superior’s six-run first inning.

The Tigers scored runs in the bottom of the first on Friend’s RBI double and Green’s two-run double.

Superior added three runs in the second and inning and another in the third before Heinen belted a three-run home run in the fifth inning.

The Tigers’ final run was a home run by Spangenberg in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Spartans’ game today with Esko has been cancelled. Superior is scheduled to host Duluth East at 4;30 p.m. Friday at the Superior Middle School.

Northwestern hosts Barron today and plays at Grantsburg Thursday. Both games are at 5 p.m.

SPARTAN SPIN: The Spartans’ last LSC title came in 2004 and the school’s last state tournament appearance was in 1993. … Zembo begins her 14th season as coach of the Spartans with an overall record of 136-98. … Superior’s season ended last year with an extra-inning loss to Eau Claire North in a WIAA regional semifinal game. … Assistant coaches include John Seifert, Greg Campbell, Ashley Martin and Kari Miller. The team’s managers are Marylynne Leadstrom, Alyssa Correll and Haley Siers. … Zembo thinks the LSC championship is up for grabs this season with Superior, Hermantown, Cloquet and Duluth Denfeld all having a shot at the title. Superior finished in fourth place last year in the LSC with a 4-3 record.

Superior       632       030       0          —        14

Northwestern           300       130       1          —        8

Superior Spartans

2014 Softball Schedule

Tue., Apr 8       at Menomonie (W, W)

Fri., April 11    at N’western (W 14-8)

Tue., April 15  vs. Esko, ppd

Fri., Apr 18      vs. East, 4:30 p.m.

Monday            vs. Grantsburg, 5 p.m.

Tue., Apr 22     vs. Herm., 4:30 p.m.

Tue., Apr 29     vs. Proctor, 4:30 p.m.

Thur., May 1    at Duluth East, 4:30 p.m.

Sat., May 3       at Becker, 10 a.m.

Tue., May 6      at Cloquet, 4:30 p.m.

Wed., May 7    vs. Marshall, 4:30 p.m.

Thur., May 8    vs. Rice Lake (2), 4 p.m.

Sat., May 10     at Bloomer (2), 9:30 a.m.

Tue., May 13   vs. Denfeld, 4:30 p.m.

Thur., May 15  at E.C. North (2), 4 p.m.

Sat., May 17     vs. EC Mem. (2), 11 a.m.

Tue., May 20   vs. Ashland (20), 4 p.m.

Tue., May 27   WIAA Regionals

Thur., May 29  WIAA Regional Final

Tue., Jun 3       WIAA Sectionals

Thur., Jun 5      Sectional Final

June 12-14       WIAA State Tournament

Superior Spartans

2014 Varsity Roster

6 Harmony Clarke         2B           12

8 Ari Jago, Ari                3B           12

9 Kaitline Heinen          1B/P       11

10 Gabby Gidley            C             11

13 Rachal Fregin           CF          12

4 MacKenzie Kmecik   LF           10

21 Jessica Lindstrom   SS           12

24 Shannon Johnstad    P/OF      12

25 Tailor Schuster         2B           11

31 Britta Bergstrom      OF          11

33 Taylor Nelson           RF          12

35 Brandie Goldberg    P             9

Junior Varsity

2 Jordyn Olson               OF          9

3 Natalie Olson              IF            9

5 Lanie DeMeyer           C             9

7 Makenzie Stariha       OF          9

12 Erika Olson               3B           9

14 Abbie DeMeyer        IF/C        10

16 Nicole Koenen          IF            11

18 Cassie Strum             2B/OF    11

19 Maggie Dembroski  2B/OF    10

20 Natalie Noble            OF          9

22 Jillian Radtke           OF          11

27 Hannah Thul              2B           9

28 Lexi Johnson             OF          9

29 Abby Hansen             SS/P       10

30 Allie Thul   SS           9

32 Sydney Johnson       P             11

34 Katelyn Stebner       OF          10