Head Coach Aaron Vail looks ahead to exciting season
With an all-new lineup and a 40-game schedule that includes a spring road trip to Tucson, Ariz., the DCTC fastpitch softball team is fired up to compete at the NJCAA Independent Division III level.
“We are getting to know each other as teammates,” said Head Coach Aaron Vail, who is starting his first season at the helm of Blue Knights fastpitch. “Every player is dedicated to contributing to a full team effort.”
Vail pointed to Tara Kimberly, a sophomore and co-captain, as the team’s most experienced pitcher. A biology major with a 3.9 GPA, Kimberly is a transfer from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. A solid, right-handed hurler, she will eat up the most innings on the mound.
“I love the game and have a true passion for pitching,” said Kimberly, who graduated from Baldwin-Woodville High School in Baldwin, Wis., and is taking general education courses at DCTC.
Freshman Amanda Olson, Bloomington Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minn., and freshman Cynthia Halpaus, Rosemount High School in Rosemount, Minn., will also share pitching duties during the season.
Thanks to freshman Maria Leidner, a graduate of Rosemount H.S., the Knights are also strong at shortstop. A two-time team MVP who made Minnesota All-State and All-Star squads during her high school career, Leidner is a stabilizing force on the field.
“Maria has 13 years of experience playing fastpitch,” Vail said. “She will anchor our infield and bring a winning attitude to the team.”
Also a Knights co-captain, Leidner was a starter on the Irish softball team that took home the 2006 Minnesota State Championship. Excelling as both a fielder and hitter, she will be a player to watch as the season unfolds.
Co-Captain Ashlee Hunt is the team’s starting catcher. A freshman from Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minn., Hunt will take on a key leadership role as catcher, a position that handles the running of the team’s defense. Michelle Hinz, a freshman from Baldwin-Woodville H.S., and Jessica Glassman, a freshman from Marian High School in Omaha, Neb., will spell Hunt at the catching spot.
Angie Wilson, a freshman from Hastings High School in Hastings, Minn., will start at first base while Ranae Fasig, a freshman from Farmington High School in Farmington, Minn., will stake out second base. Hinz will be the primary at third with help from Hunt and Sarah LaVoie, a freshman from Minneapolis South High School.
As their roles continue to develop on the team, a number of players will fill critical positions in the outfield, including:
- Rachel Sydow, freshman, Immanuel Lutheran High School in Eau Claire, Wis.
- Nichole Wagner, freshman, Hastings H.S.
- Mercedes Akinseye, freshman, Farmington H.S.
- Janna Borghsiinck, freshman, Sisseton High School in Sisseton, S.D.
- Paige Taylor, freshman, Totino Grace High School in Fridley, Minn.
Coach Vail noted that Kimberley Merrick-Modrynski, a student majoring in secondary education at Minnesota State University-Mankato, has taken on the duties of assistant coach. “Kim is doing a fantastic job coaching our pitchers and outfielders,” he said. “She played competitive softball for 19 years and her knowledge of the game is really making a difference on our team.”
A former assistant fastpitch coach and recruiting coordinator at Hamline University and ranked one of the top male fastpitch players in the U.S., Vail reported that everyone on the Blue Knights fastpitch team will play an important role.
“I have two goals for my players in our inaugural year,” he said. “First, every player will make a complete team commitment from day one to the last day of season. Second, we will have fun through learning and improving. At every practice and in every game, we will always be working together to improve as individuals and as a team.”
For more information on Blue Knights fastpitch softball, please visit Go Blue Knights.