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Lady Pirates coming off first state tournament trip

Tim Seaton and his Verndale Pirates enjoyed a great ride last season that took them all the way to North Mankato and the Class A state softball tournament.

"It was incredible," said Seaton, who saw his girls defeat Hawley 5-4 in the section finals at Brandon to become the first girls' sports team from Verndale to qualify for state. The Pirates saw their season end at state with a pair of 1-0 defeats to Little Fork-Big Falls and Badger-Greenbush-Middle River.

The Pirates have a good nucleus back for the 2009 season. The Pirates will be feature a veteran battery with all-stater Nicole Bart pitching to all-state catcher Alicia Johnson.

Not only does Seaton have two of his stars back, he can see reasons why his club could be even stronger than last year, when they went 19-4 and 12-2 in the Park Region Conference.

"I think our hitting is going to be better and that's going to be a key, plus improving our defense," Seaton said.

Bart, who won Park Region Conference Co-MVP honors last year, is a good senior leader and throws all types of pitches according to Seaton.

"She keeps the hitters off balance and she has very good control," Seaton said.

Johnson was the team's top stick last year and led the team in RBIs. The senior standout has been playing since the eighth grade and gives the Pirates some good power.

The Pirates also have an all-conference at third in junior Brittany Kern.

"She is a very hard worker and very coachable," Seaton said of Kern, who was the team's No. 2 hitter last year.

Other letterwinners include senior outfielder Kaitlyn Dunrud, junior outfielder Heather Hejhal, sophomore outfielder Elizabeth Johnson and junior Crystal Haskins, who played the outfield last year but who will see a lot of playing time at first this season.

Rounding out the varsity roster will be junior infielder Jamie Kern, sophomore shortstop Lizzy Yungbauer, sophomore outfielder Jessica Siebert, sophomore infielder Faith Kern, sophomore pitcher-second baseman Jenny Swenson and freshman utility player Codi Weeks.

Seaton regards Otter Tail Central as the team to beat in the Park Region with Hawley fielding a team that should be a favorite for the section title.