Softball: BP’s High Voltage Battery

Published 7:55 pm Monday, May 21, 2012

Blooming Prairie catcher Hunter Henderson, left and pitcher Shelbi Swenson have provided a big lift for the Awesome Blossoms, who are seeking their third straight trip to the Class ‘A’ state softball tournament. The Class ‘A’ softball playoffs begin this week. -- Rocky Hulne/

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — Patience has paid off for Shelbi Swenson.

After watching Blooming Prairie grad Erica Manske re-write the BP pitching record book for the past two seasons, Swenson took her turn in the circle this year, and she isn’t missing a beat.

Swenson, who played first base last season, has allowed just nine earned runs in 115 innings and tallied 153 strikeouts for the Awesome Blossoms (15-2 overall), who will host Glenville-Emmons in the first round of the Subsection 1A West Division tournament Thursday at 5 p.m.

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“I knew Shelbi would be ready to go this year,” BP head coach Ali Mach said. “It’s unfortunate she was so close in age with Erica. I knew she’d have a good season and I think she’s done a fantastic job for us. She’s figured out how to take control offensively and defensively.”

While Swenson has been steady, her production wouldn’t be as consistent without the luxury she has in Hunter Henderson, who has started at catcher for BP in the last four seasons. Henderson and Swenson have played together for years, but this season they’ve spent a lot more time working together.

“We both boss each other around like crazy,” said Henderson, a senior who is hitting .433 this season. “If she’s not pitching well, I’ll get after her. We’ve been together forever and we know what clicks. It’s worked out for the both of us this year.”

Swenson has embraced the advice that Henderson has had to offer as she’s rolled through this season mostly unfazed.

“Hunter is always getting better, but from last year to this year, she’s had a drastic improvement,” said Swenson, a junior who is hitting .477 with four homeruns and 19 RBI. “She helps make calls and its nice to have someone I trust back there.”

After losing two of their first five games to open the season, the Blossoms have rattled off 12 straight wins. They’ve won eight of those games by more than seven, but they’ve also had three wins decided by two runs or less.

Henderson said Swenson always brings her best stuff and she expects that to continue in the postseason.“I don’t think it really matters to her,” Henderson said. “She plays the same every game and she dominates every game. I don’t think it matters who we’re playing.”

Swenson said BP began to find its groove when it knocked of Kasson-Mantorville, which is ranked No. 1 in Class ‘AA’ and beat Waseca in 12 innings on the same day May 12.

“That was huge and winning a 12 inning game was just awesome,” Swenson said. “We’ve had good momentum and we’re playing really well right now.”

BP, which is ranked No. 5 in Class ‘A,’ has played in the last two state softball tournaments and the Blossoms took fourth last year. They enter the Subsection 1A West Division tournament as the top-seed and the favorite, but they know teams will be looking to upset them.

“We’ve been a target for a lot of teams this year,” Henderson said. “It’s not going to change during subsections and our mentality is not going to change.”

Mach said her team will be ready when the playoffs start.

“We need to keep playing our game and once Thursday starts, its a new season,” Mach said. “I feel like we’re playing our best ball and we have a lot of playoff experience. Hopefully that leadership will help.”

The Blossoms will close their regular season against Zumbrota-Mazeppa, which is ranked No. 4 in Class ‘AA’ in BP Tuesday at 5 p.m.


Shelbi Swenson — Record: 15-2; ERA: 0.548; strikeouts: 153; walks: 36; hits allowed: 62; innings pitched: 115; batting average: .404; on-base percentage: .477; doubles: 5; triples: 1; homeruns: 4; RBI: 19; runs: 18; stolen bases: 11-for-11

Hunter Henderson — Batting average: .443; on-base percentage: .514; doubles: 6; RBI: 17; runs: 7; stolen bases: 5-for-6