Softball: Ahrens, Holdingford hoping to fill big shoes

Alyssa Ohman was an electric force for Holdingford throughout her career, helping the Huskers to the brink of the state tournament last spring with her arm and bat.

Between her, Jena Volkers, Haley Huls, Ashley Breth and Amanda Beckius, the group put up 61 wins in the past four years.

But just because that group is gone, don’t expect the Huskers’ expectations to level off.

“It’s always hard to replace someone like Alyssa,” Holdingford head coach Dan Talberg said. “She was a pitcher that made a lot of outs for our team. Then, her bat was so dependable, I could hit and run, bunt and just about anything because I trusted what she could do each and every at bat.

“With that said, some younger players will step up to fill her void,” he said. “(Sophomore) Aries Ahrens will be my No. 1 pitcher. She pitched most of the JV games last year and has worked hard all winter to improve. The nice thing about Aries is her bat is comparable to what Alyssa could do.”

Who will slot in after Ahrens remains to be seen, with seven other pitchers being given consideration.

“What I expect to see from my pitching staff is improvement on consistency,” Talberg said. “I expect some nerves the first few games, but our defense behind them will help keep them confident and excited about pitching. They will not be  lights-out type of pitchers, but we will see more grounders and pops.”

That should work out well, as the Huskers expect their strength to be their defense.

“I expect a very solid defense this year with some of the strongest arms in our infield I have ever had on our team,” Talberg said. “Our outfield will be well-rounded this year as well. They too have good arms and gloves, but the range each one has is much better this year.

“I’m sure with all the new starters we will have some growing pains, but by conference play we should be ready to compete with the best teams out there,” he said.

Returning starters include seniors Sam Maciej (third base), Kinzie Dockendorf (left field) and Cortney Kostreba (outfield) and junior Amy Catlin (first base).

The Huskers have a deep senior class of nine this spring, including Hannah Peterson (catcher), Rachel Hanson (outfield), Billie Jo Czeck (second base), Ashley Junker (shortstop), Sara Grebinoski (infield), Joelle Ertl (outfield), Dockendorf, Kostreba and Maciej.

Also looking to see playing time are juniors Chelsey Gerads, Abby Boultin and Catlin, sophomores Maddy Higgis, Haley Auger, Alison Gerads and Ahrens, freshmen Morgan Douvier and Katelyn Minette and potentially a handful of eighth-graders.

Putting together a deep lineup will be key in the Central Minnesota Conference, especially with defending champ and state entrant Rockford Area bringing back its top contributors.

“We always have a tough conference,” Talberg said. “Many teams graduated some top-notch players and will have new faces in their lineup. Hopefully this will help transition the new ones into our lineup … The level of competition never drops. It should be a fun spring when the snow melts.”