By: Abby Altman
Strength up the middle is one thing most softball teams have learned to prioritize. A strong shortstop, center field, and pitching staff are essential to the success of a team.
For Highland Park’s softball team, this season could very well come down to how well they perform up the middle.
The pitching staff for the 2023 season is identical to that of last season, with junior Ella Johnson and sophomore Morgan Johnson (no relation) as the starters, and junior Lydia Breuber as the team’s relief pitcher.
The 2022 pitching staff had a combined ERA of 7.67, giving up 79 total runs over the season.
Through 5 games this season, Highland Park has already allowed 46 runs, with 11 games still remaining.
Age is another big change on the 2023 team this season. Of the 11 members of the Varsity lineup, there are only 5 upperclassmen, and the majority of the team is either freshmen or 8th graders.
Freshmen twins Analiese and Scarlett Schneider are key players in strength up the middle. With Scarlett at shortstop and Analiese in center field, the twins are looking to secure their places in the field for the rest of their high school career.
Joining Analiese in the outfield is senior Abby Altman in right field, as well as a combination of senior Bella Jack and 8th grader Willow Sadowski in left field. Speed and awareness are essential in the outfield, and Highland’s combination should meet, and hopefully exceed fielding expectations.
On the corners in the infield are sophomore Hannah Gliedman at third base, and a wide variety of players at first base, including Lydia Bruber, Morgan Johnson, and junior Kate Ruebish, when she’s not behind the plate.
Overall, for defense, the team has more than enough weapons to succeed.
On the offensive side of the field, Highland has been even slower at getting things moving.
Through the first 7 games this season, Highland is 3-4, with blowouts from Richfield, Two Rivers, and South Saint Paul, and a close 5-6 loss against Saint Paul Academy.
Highland also handed losses to Humboldt, Johnson, and St. Paul Central.
In their first 3 games, Highland scored only 2 runs, both in the first game of the season against Richfield.
Since then, Highland has had a few blowouts of their own, scoring 19 runs against Humboldt and 26 runs against Johnson, but the majority of those runs were propelled by walks.
Highland Park is one of 7 teams in the St. Paul City conference. Over the past 2 seasons, Highland has taken 1st and 2nd place in the conference, losing to Central in 2022. This conference has struggled in the past, with nearly every team having a losing record each season.
Highland Park and St. Paul Central are once again likely to be the top 2 contenders for the 2023 conference title.
On Thursday, Highland defeated Central 5-3 in a tight showdown, led by exceptional pitching from Ella Johnson, and an abundant number of bunts laid down by Highland’s offense.
Over the next 6 days, Highland has 5 games, including the teams last 3 conference matchups.