May 21, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Denfeld takes aim at elusive trip to state
By Rick Weegman
Prior to this spring, Sarah Hendrickson wrote down goals for her senior season of high school softball.
Qualifying for the Class AAA state tournament was at the top of the list for the Duluth Denfeld pitcher.
After numerous close calls at Denfeld and Central — where Hendrickson debuted as a starting hurler in eighth grade — perhaps this is the Hunters’ year to make it to Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minn.
Denfeld (16-1) earned the No. 2 seed in Section 7AAA and will meet the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between Duluth East and Grand Rapids in Saturday’s double-elimination Elite Eight at Wheeler Field in Duluth. Defending champion Forest Lake is the top seed.
“That’s my No. 1 goal — to beat Forest Lake and make it down to Mankato,” Hendrickson said Monday.
The Hunters’ only loss was 1-0 to Rogers on an unearned run. Hendrickson didn’t throw that game and is 10-0 with a sub-1.8 ERA on the season.
“She’s not just good as a pitcher but she’s good for the team,” coach Dick Swanson said. “She’s a leader and is team-oriented. She’s like the Energizer bunny — she always has high energy and gets everyone going.”
Hendrickson and fellow seniors Mel Jarvi and Mikayla Haynes are the last holdovers who played at Central. Hendrickson can’t believe the run is almost over.
“I’ve been starting since eighth grade, and now this is my last year,” she said. “It’s kind of bittersweet.”
Reaching the state tournament for the first time since the school’s debut in 1990 would make it that much sweeter. After graduating big hitters Nikki Logergren and Kara Warren, the Hunters didn’t enter the season as favorites.
“We exceeded expectations somewhat because we lost those studs,” Swanson said.
Instead, players such as Alexia Klaas (batting over .500) and Jarvi (leading team in RBIs) have come through.
“I feel that we are almost as good as last year,” Jarvi said. “All of our seniors and underclassmen, too, have stepped up to the plate this year and met the standards of our previous years.”
That includes reaching section finals in 2010 and 2012. Now the Hunters hope to take that one step further.
Denfeld defeated East 11-4 and Grand Rapids 4-2 in the regular season. The seventh-seeded Greyhounds (6-8), led by junior pitcher Vanessa Kohl, split a doubleheader with the No. 10 Thunderhawks earlier this month and will host the playoff rematch on the artificial surface behind Ordean East Middle School.