Prep softball: Superior’s Melania Luostari ‘finally’ blasts off
The Spartans’ sophomore is an outrageous 12-for-19 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in the last six games.
SUPERIOR — Superior’s Melania Luostari didn’t feel like she was hitting too well early in the season, an idea that causes coach Mike Sather to scoff just a little.
Still, he has to admit the Spartans’ sophomore third baseman is on a bit of a tear that continued in an 11-0, five-inning win over Proctor Wednesday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. Luostari was 3-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBIs against the Rails. Over her last six games, Luostari is an astounding 12-for-19 with four home runs, 18 RBIS and 10 runs scored.
For a little context, reigning News Tribune and Superior Telegram All-Area Player of the Year Emma Raye is a modest 11-for-18 with three doubles, a triple, four RBIs and 12 runs scored.
After a 2-for-4 performance against Grand Rapids Friday, Luostari’s hot streak got started in earnest with a two-home run, six-RBI performance against Hamilton Saturday in Chippewa Falls. Her first long ball was more than a little cathartic, she said.
“When you hit the ball, you just know it’s gone, right away,” she said. “It’s just a great feeling like, ‘Yes, I’m doing this for my team — finally,’ because I wasn’t hitting the ball too well earlier in the season. That first one was like relief just washed over me. It’s nice to jog around the bases and see everybody’s so happy for me.”
Raye, the 2022 Wisconsin Division 1 Player of the Year and a Northwestern recruit, said Luostari has had the potential for this sort of streak since joining the team as a freshman last season.
“I think a big thing with her is she’s just realizing that she doesn’t need to put so much pressure on herself,” Raye said. “If she trusts herself, if she trusts her mechanics, she’s going to launch the ball — she’s got one of the hardest swings on the team, she can crush a ball. I think it’s just her mentality at the plate. Clearly, she’s seeing the ball well right now, which is helping us tremendously.”
While Sather said any struggles Luostari had early in the season were just that: early season struggles.
“As the season progresses, you get more at-bats and it seems to come a little more natural,” Sather said. “You’re going to start seeing the ball better and you’re going to make better contact. She just needed a little time and some at-bats to get her going.”
Luostari said she has tried to adjust her swing a little lately. She’s been trying to keep her weight distributed more even throughout her swing, and her coaches have helped her study her swing.
While Luostari is a little leary of comparisons to one of the top softball recruits in the Midwest, Sather said there are some traits they share, a good work ethic and a passion for softball.
“She’s always been a really good hitter and she puts in a lot of time on her batting,” Sather said. “Mel works a lot at it and she naturally has some power, which helps, but she just loves playing and she’s one of the hardest workers that we have. They all work hard, but she’s kind of on her own level.”
Sather isn’t the only one who has noticed the time and effort Luostari has put into her swing and commitment to the team.
“I’m proud of her, she’s worked so hard,” Raye said. “As a sophomore, she’s going to contribute more and more throughout the season and throughout her career at the high school. As a senior, it’s good to see someone else hitting home runs. I haven’t hit as many this year, but, of course, her hitting them only makes us better.”
Superior (20-0) has just two regular season games left before regionals begin Tuesday. The Spartans advanced to the Division 1 semifinals last season before bowing out against eventual state champion Kaukauna. As Sather noted, “one bad inning” can end your championship dreams in a single-elimination tournament, but Luostari has high expectations.
“I’m expecting to go all the way and win state,” she said. “We got that experience against Kaukauna and all those other teams. I feel like we have a great chance and a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”
Luostari knows there is a benefit to batting behind one of the strongest hitters in Wisconsin, but simply playing near Raye and in a Spartan uniform has its own benefit.
“Emma is such a great player and I love playing alongside her,” Luostari said. “It just gives me a ton of confidence to step out on this field every day — it makes me feel really good about myself.”
Spartans’ breast cancer fundraiser a ‘win-win’
During the Superior’s 12-0 win over Hibbing Monday, the Spartans were sporting a different look.
Instead of the traditional blue and white with a hint of red, the Spartans wore black jerseys with pink letters and trim as part of a fundraiser for Essentia Health Breast Cancer Foundation.
Indigo Fish organized the fundraiser by approaching local businesses for items to raffle off during Monday’s game. In addition, the team held a 50/50 raffle and a “Miracle Minute” where the team went into the crowd for 60 seconds and accepted cash donations.
In the end, Fish and the Spartans raised nearly $1,700 for the Essentia Health Foundation program that “helps revolutionize breast cancer prevention, enhance technology and support breast cancer survivors,” according to the foundation website.
“It’s using a sport I love to help people, it’s a win-win,” Fish said. “It was hard because it took a lot of time, but it was really fun and we helped a lot of people.”