Reload and Regroup: Blossoms are making state tournament a habit

Published 8:19 pm Monday, June 3, 2013

Blooming Prairie eighth grader Bria Baldwin has been one of the younger Blossoms to step up this season. -- Rocky Hulne/

Blooming Prairie eighth grader Bria Baldwin has been one of the younger Blossoms to step up this season. — Rocky Hulne/

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — When most teams out of the metro area make it to a state tournament, it’s usually their only shot in a long time to win a state title.

For the Awesome Blossoms softball team, this year’s state tournament will be their fourth chance in four years to win a state title, and it may not be their last.

BP has managed to stay competitive despite graduating players like Erica Manske, who now pitches at Luther College, Tayla Jones, who plays softball at Waldorf College and Tricia DeBoer, who will play softball at St. Cloud State next season, over the past few years.

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Next year BP will not have seniors Shelbi Swenson, a first-team All-State pitcher who will play at Bethel College next year, Sam Ivers, a second team All-State catcher and Jenna Krell, an honorable mention All-State shortstop. But as they always have, the Blossoms will reload.

“We had a lot of great leaders before us like Erica Manske,” Swenson said. “When I was in eighth and ninth grade, the older players really reached out to me. I’ve been trying to do that for the younger girls this year.”

The secret to BP’s repeated success has been that it has never had a huge senior class that it couldn’t replace and it has always had underclassmen coming up through the ranks. This year is no different as sophomores Tessa Ivers and Madison Worke and eighth grader Bria Baldwin are all in the starting lineup.

Last year Baldwin was in the stands cheering on the Blossoms at state and this year she’s hitting .444 and playing in the outfield for BP after she worked her way into the lineup a few games into the season.

“I’ve always wanted to play with them since I was little. I always watched them,” Baldwin said. “From the start it was intimidating, but as I’ve gone through it my nerves have gone down and I’ve gotten used to it.”Krell understands what it’s like to play with older teammates and she’s done her best to make BP’s younger players feel welcome this season.

“All three of us seniors try to lead by example,” Krell said. “It’s important to make sure those young kids feel important and involved, because we were all once the young kids on the team. They’ve all been doing a great job.”

The senior leadership the Blossoms have had in recent years is what has kept the program in amongst the elite squads in Class ‘A.’ BP head coach Ali Mach said that her players have done a great job of taking ownership of the program and showing the way to their younger teammates.

“This group of girls is lucky they’re one of twenty four teams in the state still playing and some of them have done it four times now. You’re not going to find that in many places,” Mach said. “I look back in the ten years I’ve been here and we truly have improved every time. These girls have worked to be better and they don’t compare themselves to each other or past teams.”

Sam Ivers said she has seen support grow for the team over the past four years. She recalled when the team made it to its first state tournament and not that many people followed BP softball.

“The first few years, people didn’t really know about the softball team when we went to state. Now we’ve got more people coming and the community involvement has improved,” Ivers said. “It adds more to the excitement and meaning of going to state.”

Herald sports editor Rocky Hulne will be providing live updates of the Blossoms at state on twitter. Follow him @RockyHulneADH.