By Brett Zallek – [email protected]

The Blazer softball team won’t have to worry about replacing graduating seniors any time soon.

Last year, the team had no juniors on the roster and only one senior.

They went 22-18 (10-12 MIAC) to finish seventh in the conference—five games behind St. Catherine who made the topfour cut to the playoffs at 15-7. They don’t have any seniors this season, but despite their class standing, they all have significant experience. Juniors Sara Wennerstrand, a catcher and infielder, and outfielder Megan Toninato return after both were named to the All-MIAC First Team and All-Region Third Team in 2016. Wennerstrand was second in the MIAC and tied the school record with 45 RBIs last season and Toninato was ninth in the conference in batting average (.394) and sixth in hits (52).

Sophomore outfielder Kate Deming also earned All-MIAC honors last year after finishing second in the conference in runs scored (41) and was successful on 21 of 23 stolen base attempts. The team’s 2017 campaign began Feb. 26 with two games in the Rochester Dome against UW-LaCrosse and Martin Luther College.

St. Ben’s got off to a hot start offensively with a 4-0 lead over LaCrosse in the first two innings. With a 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, the Blazers surrendered five runs to eventually lose 5-9.

But they bounced back quickly. In their second game, this time against Martin Luther, CSB scored a run in all but one inning, out-hitting their opponents 18-7 en route to a 10-3 win.

“We had really good energy,” Wennerstrand said of the first two games. “We were all really excited to play and to get an actual game in. We communicated on the field really well defensively… [But we need to work on] some base running things and being smart on the bases.”

Junior pitcher Cassie Meyer, who earned the win against Martin Luther, is excited to see what this year’s team can do.

“We have so much talent, it’s so diverse,” Meyer said. “We have so many [slap hitters], so many new pitchers, and we have a lot of extra players working at different bases so we have a lot of different options.”

The Blazers will now travel to Florida for a spring break trip where they will play 12 games in seven days against teams mostly from the east coast. Wennerstrand said the annual trip is something the team always looks forward to.

“It’s one of the highlights of the season,” Wennerstrand said. “It’s tiring to play 10 or 12 games, but it’s something that we love to do so we look forward to it.”

“Florida is where we bond as a team the most. You get to know your teammates so much better over a week of living with them,” Wennerstrand said.

Meyer echoed the importance of the trip.

“You play so many games, so you have an opportunity to get a taste of what college games are like, especially for the first-years,” Meyer said. “It helps [Head Coach Rachael Click] too to see where players are at and what we need to work on before we get into MIAC games.”

The Blazers begin the conference portion of their schedule on April 1 against Concordia before hosting St. Mary’s on April 2.