Softball: Jenks, Kabanuk return for Little Falls after missing 2011 with injuries

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Little Falls senior Alayna Kabanuk loosens up during an early-season practice. Kabanuk returns as one of the Flyers’ top hitters after missing 2011 due to injury.

The Little Falls softball team must find a way to replace departed all-state shortstop Paige Beseman, starting pitcher Christina Munnell and Carmen Backowski as it heads into the Granite Ridge Conference (GRC) this spring.

However, the Flyers will be well-equipped to do so, with a lineup featuring six returning starters from last spring and a standout hitting duo rejoining the Flyers after missing last year due to injuries.

Seniors Brichelle Brummer (left field) and Makayla Jorgensen (third base) are the top returning hitters from last season, with Brummer hitting .383 and Jorgensen hitting .371.

Also starting last season for Little Falls were seniors Britian Conley (catcher), Holly Kampa (first base), Kale Bzdok (second base) and Chloe Nelson (pitcher/outfield).

Nelson pitched 47 innings a year ago and is expected to step into the starting pitching role, Little Falls head coach Ron Hinnenkamp said.

Junior Jamie Jenks hit .375 for the Flyers in 2010, with senior Alayna Kabanuk right behind her at .373.

Both players missed all of last season with knee injuries.

Other players expected to compete for playing time and to provide depth are seniors Mandy Nelson and Kelsey Thompson and juniors Chantelle Anderson, Kristen Gotfredson, Chelsey Karnowski, Katie Stewart, Emily Suska, Carly Townsend and Jordan Wise.

“Being in the new conference, it is hard to know who will be strong,” Hinnenkamp said. “I expect our girls to step up to the challenge of the new conference and for us to compete with the top teams.”

Hinnenkamp said that St. Cloud Cathedral and Mora have been strong in recent years, with Milaca also being in the mix, but that the Flyers haven’t seen much of the remaining GRC teams.

“We should be strong on offense and defense, and need our pitchers, led by Chloe Nelson, to step up and get us to the next level,” he said.

Little Falls opens the season Thursday at Pierz.