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Streaks U17 softball caps summer with tourney title

The Osakis U17 softball team won its last six games this summer and wrapped things up with a tournament title in its West Central Summer League. (Submitted photo)

The Osakis summer softball team took first in the U17 West Central Summer League tournament Thursday, July 20, beating Sauk Centre and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to finish the season with a 9-3 record.

The six-team U17 league is one of four in the WCSL. The U14 league had nine teams, the U12 had 10 and the U10, which was in its first year, had four.

"It is non-sanctioned or affiliated," coach John Stigman said. "We try to give girls a good experience and promote them enjoying the game."

It leads to what Stigman called a pretty laid back atmosphere for the girls. Stigman, who coaches the Osakis softball team in school ball, focuses on skill building throughout the summer as teams play one night a week and practice one other.

"We are just trying give these girls an opportunity to compete at a level which is less intense so they can become confident in their skill building," Stigman said. "You can play a hundred games in a summer, but if you don't work on your swing and your glove, it won't make a difference."

The U17 team included Kali Giesler, Skylar Schmidt, Harlie Falzone, Jaden Klimek, Morgan Herzog, Shea Olson, Cassie LeBrun, Chaeli Falzone, Tia Dykema, Laynee Hartshorn, Grace Oeltjen, Brittany Dietrich, Julianna Collins, Lexi Klimek, Kennedy George and Hayleigh Niehoff.

"We finished the summer on a six-game win streak, culminating with a very good showing on tournament night," Stigman said. "We were very young, with half of our team not having played anything higher than junior high or junior varsity last spring, but you could see the improvements we made that night."

The team had a 3-3 start after their first six games, but the fundamentals that they focus on came to fruition during a six-game winning streak the rest of the way.

"At practice it is all fundamentals the swing, fundamentals of fielding, fundamentals of pitching," Stigman said. "At games we try to put those lessons to use as we build for the next spring season."

The goal of the summer league isn't to win championships, but rather to improve and put the best team possible on the field the following spring. Coach Stigman said that while he's busy with the varsity during the spring season, the summer is a useful opportunity to see the players who may be on the fast track to join his team in the coming years.

"I get to see and work with girls that I don't get to work with during season," he said. "It is really helpful for me to look at our options for the next year. And get to know these younger players on a level I don't get to in the spring.

"The drills I ran them through, for some, were new. They looked at me with skeptical eyes. But I think they finally saw the results the last night. That is a good sign for the future."