Coach Meghan Thurow knew she was in the minority in her belief early on that the Minnehaha Academy softball team would be greatly improved this spring. So she might be justified if she’s inclined to muster up a little “I told you so.”

“I might have been the only one who thought that before the start of the year,” said Thurow, who can laugh about it now.

She certainly has had plenty to be cheerful about. With the regular season winding down and the Section 4AA playoffs ahead, the Redhawks were a solid 11-4 overall and 8-2 in the Independent Metro Athletic Conference, good for second place behind undefeated Mounds Park Academy.

Both of Minnehaha’s conference losses were to the Panthers, though one was a tight 12-11 affair that could have gone either way. That could bode well should the Redhawks run once again into Mounds Park, currently ranked among the top 10 teams in the state in AA. The Panthers are the top seed in the Section 4AA playoffs, which run from May 19-June 2.

   

Thurow knew she had some highly skilled players going into 2022, with six seniors returning and significant talent in the younger classes. She figured she had good hitting and decent team speed, and was hoping there would be a serious upgrade in pitching and defense. It all came together famously.

minnehaha softball
Minnehaha’s star pitcher, senior Payton Glenn. Photo by Brad Stauffer

“We’ve had some girls who really stepped up,” Thurow said.

She was particularly right about the hitting. Through May 15, Minnehaha had scored some 160 runs in 15 games. However, it’s the pitching and defense that have really improved.

 

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Senior pitcher Payton Glenn might not throw the hardest, but she gets the ball over the plate and allows the Redhawk defense to do its job. Glenn had a 9-4 record and 3.30 ERA as this was written, logging the overwhelming majority of the team’s innings.

Behind the plate is freshman catcher Mara Jimenez, who’s been hitting .500 out of the leadoff spot. She “catches everything,” Thurow said.

Overall, the Redhawks have some real offensive guns. “We can hit,” Thurow said. “We’ve had patient at-bats and we’re hard to pitch against.”

Overall, the Redhawks have some real offensive guns. “We can hit,” Thurow said. “We’ve had patient at-bats and we’re hard to pitch against.”

Minnehaha did have to weather a major setback this spring. Gifted senior center fielder Caroline McHugh recently suffered a torn hand ligament diving for a ball and is out for the season. Thurow said McHugh had all-state potential, but senior Lydia Schroeder shifted from right to center and has done a fine job filling in.

The other Redhawk position players have all done their parts as well At first is junior Camryn Thurow, the coach’s sister, who was batting a sizzling .596 out of the No. 3 spot.

At second is senior Penny Sedgwick, who was hitting .439 at the No. 2 spot. She can steal bases after getting on with her solid  contact hitting.

At short is sophomore Maddie Ciccarelli, whose .500 batting average and ability to hit for power earned her the cleanup spot.

Playing third is junior Abby Theisen, who bats fifth and has lightning-quick reflexes at the hot corner.

Junior Danae Goree moved from designated player to right field and has been filling in well. Senior Annika Benson shows fine glovework and speed in left. Senior Ella Quale is now the designated player.

The Redhawks have shown they can handle most teams this spring, but Thurow pointed to two wins against Saint Agnes for their special significance. The first was a 7-4 victory at Minnehaha in which the Redhawks gained more confidence as the contest wore on. “We just knew we’d win it,” Thurow said.

The second was a 7-3 triumph at Saint Agnes, which featured a cameo appearance by McHugh. Her hand injury prevents her from doing anything but bunt and she laid down a perfectly placed single to start a rally that climaxed when Jimenez hit a grand-slam.

“Our girls won that game for Caroline,” Thurow said.

The coach is more than a little charged when she thinks about her club’s chances in the postseason, which incidently was set to begin on May 21 against Saint Agnes. She noted that the Redhawks seem to play better when they’re fired up.

“It always comes down to the energy we have when we step onto the field,” Thurow said.

— Bill Wagner

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