North fastpitch set to build on successful 2015

There were questions about how good the North High School fastpitch softball team was going to be in 2015 after graduation hit the previous-year’s team — which went to state — hard. The Polars answered those questions by winning the Metro East Conference and advancing to the section final.

The 2016 version of North fastpitch has fewer questions hanging over it and more optimism flowing through it. The Polars graduated only five seniors from a year ago and are ready to take another stab at conference and section titles.

“We’ve always had a three-tier approach,” said co-head coach Tom Nemo. “There’s obviously winning the conference, winning sections and the ultimate goal is to try to be in Mankato the first week of June.”

Nemo and Cliff Charpentier, in their second season as co-head coaches at North, have a team that returns a solid core from last year’s successful campaign. 

“We graduated a couple of seniors but we’ve got a very good nucleus back,” Nemo said. “We have quite a few returners we’re looking to to make an impact.” 

Set to lead the Polars are senior captains Lily Langevin, Ryan Crotty and Abby Arko and junior captain Megan Rubbelke. Langevin and Crotty are both outfielders, Arko is a catcher and Rubbelke is a pitcher.

Senior Maddie Greer is another pitcher who could figure into the rotation. Junior Kallie Stepaniak is back to anchor the second-base position after earning all-conference and all-section honors last season.

Sophomores Montanna Thole (third base) and Sophie Cave (shortstop) are a couple more pieces of the infield puzzle. Senior Abbie Warzeka will also play some innings in the infield and sophomore Kellie McKane is a newcomer who could see some time at catcher.

“We’ve got some team speed,” said Nemo. “We have, I think, a very solid defense and I think we’ll have some power.”

North shared the 2015 conference title with Hastings and Nemo expects the Raiders to be strong again.

“You’ve got Hastings, who is very tough,” Nemo said. “Hastings is a likely favorite, a very formidable opponent with a good softball tradition.”

Nemo also mentioned Mahtomedi and Tartan as teams to watch in the Metro East.

“Mahtomedi made some improvements last year,” Nemo added. “Tartan has some very good talent. I think those two will be tough.”

The landscape of high school fastpitch in Minnesota has changed with the addition of a fourth class. The two largest classes have sections with eight teams apiece and North is in Section 4AAAA with Cretin-Derham Hall, Hill-Murray, Roseville, Stillwater, Tartan, White Bear Lake and Woodbury.

Woodbury went to state last year and Nemo expects them to be the favorite again this season. 

“They are the hands-down favorite without a doubt,” said Nemo. “I think us and Stillwater and maybe Tartan will give them a run for their money.”

North opened the season last week with a 10-1 victory over South St. Paul on April 6. The Polars were scheduled to kick off 2016 with a game at Hill-Murray on April 5 but poor weather forced a postponement until May 4.

On the docket this week are three games, including trips to Henry Sibley on April 13 and Hastings on April 14.

 

Notes

Nemo and Charpentier were assistant coaches under Sean Hall from 2007-2010 before leaving for East Ridge in 2011, when Nemo took the head coaching job and Charpentier was his assistant. 

Charpentier returned to North as the head coach in 2012 and Nemo came back to be an assistant in 2013 and 2014.

North has added a pair of new coaches this spring. Kari Dorle is the new B-squad coach and Carli Langevin is leading the freshman team.

Dorle and Langevin are both former Polars. While at North, Dorle earned three all-state honors, played in two state tournaments and won a state championship in 2007. After high school, Dorle played four years at the University of Minnesota and when she left the Golden Gophers she was third all-time in home runs.

Langevin, as a senior, helped lead North to the 2014 state tournament, where the Polars finished fourth. She also played in 2011 state tournament as a freshman.

“It’s nice to have girls like that come back to their roots,” Nemo said.

 

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

2016 North High School softball schedule

April 5

April 6

April 8

April 11

April 13

April 14

April 18

April 20

April 21

April 22

April 23

April 25

April 27

April 28

April 29

April 30

May 2

May 6

at Hill-Murray

vs. South St. Paul

at Mahtomedi

vs. Simley

at Henry Sibley

at Hastings

vs. Tartan 

vs. Hill-Murray

at South St. Paul 

Polar Classic 

Polar Classic 

vs. Mahtomedi 

at Simley 

vs. Henry Sibley

at Lakeville tournament 

at Lakeville tournament 

vs. Hastings

at Tartan

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

TBA

TBA

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

TBA

TBA

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

 

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