Small ball leads to big results for Spartans
Under head coach Mike Sather, the Superior High School softball team has always been known for its power.
With recent lineups that included such sluggers like Erin Thompson, Jessica Lindstrom, Taylor VanDamme and Kalli Kucharyski, it was easy for Sather to just let the Spartans swing away.
This season things are a bit different.
Playing the cards he’s been dealt, Sather has turned to “Small Ball,” which includes a lot of bunting and slap-hitting.
“We have a little different lineup this season,” Sather said. “We’ve been used to having a middle part of the line up that at any time someone could hit one out. There’s nothing wrong with three-run homers, but this year we have a lot of speed, so you have to adapt to what you have. We’re trying to use our speed more, we’ll see what happens.”
That speed paid off in a 4-1 win over the Hermantown Hawks on Tuesday, April 23, at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
The Spartans had 13 hits against the Hawks, including seven that never left the infield thanks to three bunt singles and four infield hits.
One Spartan that was swinging away Tuesday was McKenzie Lehto, who was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI. The senior catcher was also 4-for-7 with an RBI triple in a doubleheader split with Eau Claire Memorial last Friday.
“Usually, my catching is more my thing, but surprisingly I’ve been hitting well lately,” Lehto said. “We always know Hermantown is a big game. We know a lot of people on their team and it’s a rivalry, so I think we were focused more today and didn’t take this game as lightly as maybe we did against Eau Claire.”
Mady Stariha was also 2-for-3 with a double, an infield single, and two RBIs; Madison Sislo had a double, bunt single and scored twice; and Ruby Moore had two innfield singles.
Stariha was also the winning pitcher, allowing five hits with 10 strikeouts with two walks.
“Mady always has good games,” Lehto said. “Her curveball’s nasty and her change-up was working well today. It’s awesome catching for her; she makes my job easy.”
Savannah Ericksen doubled and singled for the Hawks, who were playing outside for the first time this season.
The Hawks also have a new coach for the first time in 41 years in Michelle Sweeney, who replaced Tom Bang, who retired after last season. Sweeney is the wife of former Superior Spartan athlete and coach Mike Sweeney.
“Hermantown is always a good team. Michelle’s doing a great job with them and they’re not missing a beat,” Sather said. “Them playing outside for the first time was a disadvantage for them, no doubt. But they’re going to have a great year.”
Hermantown’s run came on back-to-back doubles by Kendra Winberg and Peyton Fath in the sixth inning.
Superior took a 2-0 lead in the third inning on RBI singles by Stariha and Lehto.
It went to 3-0 in the fourth when Sislo doubled, moved to third on Moore’s infield single and scored on Stariha’s sac fly.
Lehto doubled and courtesy runner Brooke Hendry eventually scored Superior’s final run on a wild pitch in the fifth inning.
The Spartans also got singles from Autumn Siers, Chesie McLaughlin, Kayleigh Miller and Elise DeGraef.
Alana Mayry took the loss for Hermantown, finishing with two strikeouts and no walks.
The Spartans (5-1 overall, 2-0 Lake Superior Conference) play at Hudson at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, and at Esko at noon Saturday, April 27.