Johnson to lead lady Pirates
The Verndale Pirates have a new head coach and a competitive Park Region Conference schedule to challenge them in 2010.
Tim Seaton has turned the head reins over to Dan Johnson, a 1994 Verndale graduate, who has been back at his alma mater for five years.
Johnson has his work cut out for him. All-State pitcher Nicole Bart and all-state catcher Alicia Johnson graduated last spring after helping the Pirates post a strong 18-6 record.
In addition to handling the catching, Johnson was the team's back-up pitcher so Johnson starts his first head coaching assignment missing two important pieces of any fast pitch puzzle.
Junior Jenny Swenson will be Verndale's main pitcher this year. Swenson pitched for Verndale's Junior Olympics team last summer. Johnson also expects to give the ball to sophomore Codi Weeks.
While Verndale's battery needs some testing, the rest of the team returns virtually intact. Seniors Brittany Kern and Crystal Haskin will play third and first base. Senior Jamie Kern is set for an infield spot along with junior Lizzy Yungbauer. Junior Elizabeth Johnson can play both infield and outfield. Senior Heather Hejhal is slated to fill an outfield position.
Five players joining last year's varsity group include seniors Cara Newberry and Amanda Kasperson, sophomores Jordy Schluettner and Abby Martinson and freshmen Teresa Moenkedick. Newberry, Kasperson, Moenkedick and Schluettner are all infield prospects. Martinson will patrol the outfield and Moenkedick will split time between pitching and the infield.
"It looks like we have some experience back in the infield and the outfield so it looks like our fielding will be strong," Johnson said.
Park Region rival Otter Tail Central has seven of their starters and a deep pitching staff according to Johnson. The Bulldogs and the Pirates finished atop the PRC last year with 11-3 records.