Softball: Vikings will open against defending state champs

Published 7:34 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

HAYFIELD — To be the best, you have to beat the best.

That’s the situation the Hayfield softball team finds itself in as the Vikings will open the Minnesota Class A State Softball Tournament with top-seeded defending state champion New York Mills in Caswell Park in North Mankato at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Hayfield (14-7 overall) is playing in its fourth straight state tournament, but there is an added urgency this season as the Vikings have 10 seniors on the roster and many of them helped get Hayfield’s run of state tournaments started.

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To knock off New York Mills, the Vikings may have to play their best game of the season as the Eagles (24-1 overall) have scored at least 10 runs 19 times this year and they’ve allowed three runs or less 17 times.

Hayfield’s Kelly Johnson comes home after her three-run homer against Wabasha-Kellogg in the Section 1A championship game Thursday at Todd Park. Herald File Photo

“They’re ranked number one and we’re going to have to come out all guns blazing and we’re going to have to attack the ball right away,” Hayfield senior Kyal Heydt said. “We have to play our best game if we want to beat them.”

Hayfield head coach Jana Wagner said the Vikings will need freshman pitcher Caitlyn Hendrickson to continue throwing strong if they want to make a strong push.

“I think we’re pretty even teams. They have a pitcher like us that throws a change up and their top four batters are pretty good hitters,” Wagner said. “They have lots of speed and they don’t make mistakes. We’ll have to do the same things as them and if Caitlyn keeps pitching well, we’ll be just fine.”

Hayfield senior Maggie Streightiff said she has a lot of faith in Hendrickson in the circle.

I think Caitlyn’s gotten much more confident with her pitching and she’s playing really loose,” Streightiff said. “She’s been playing really well.”

Hayfield’s large senior class is hoping to go out on top, but they’re also trying to keep their emotions on check as they prepare for their last run together.

“We have confidence that we can definitely do it, but we also don’t want to be too relaxed where we overlook our opponents,” Hayfield senior Olivia Matti said.

Whether it wins or loses against New York Mills, Hayfield will play either Randolph or Carlton at 7 p.m. Thursday.