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St. Bede senior shortstop Abbey Nowakowski is one of seven returning seniors on this year’s Lady Bruins squad, which is looking to make a deep postseason run after being upset in last year’s regional final. NewsTribune file photo
The St. Bede softball team is searching for its offense.
After the Lady Bruins struggled to score runs over the final few weeks of last season, this year’s St. Bede squad has spent much of the early part of this season working on its hitting.
“We’ve been practicing a lot on hitting upstairs (in the school’s chapel) and have done a lot of work in the cage,” said SBA senior Lainie Schweickert, the team’s ace and No. 3 hitter. “We’ve been doing little drills to help us get our mechanics back.” Part of the Lady Bruins’ early-season focus on hitting is because the snow-covered weather won’t allow them to get outside.
The other part is to help avoid games like last year’s regional final in which St. Bede fell 1-0.
“Obviously, we have to hit,” second-year SBA coach Bill Prokup said. “And it’s not just hitting, it’s situational hitting. If we get runners on third, we have to score. Lainie is going to keep the score down and defensively I feel pretty good, so we’ve got to have timely hitting.”
The Lady Bruins — who went 21-9 last season and were the No. 1 seed in the regional — don’t expect to need a ton of offense this year because of Schweickert, a two-time NewsTribune First-Team All-Area pitcher.
In the circle last spring, the St. Bede ace went 18-6 with an area-low 1.24 ERA. The Lewis University recruit also was second in the area with 231 strikeouts and 10.2 strikeouts per game and tied for third with 18 wins.
“She really loves the game of softball, and you can’t teach that,” Prokup said. “She is going to keep us in every game. I know she’s worked on a fourth pitch this year to go with her other consistently good three pitches. The key is for her just to go have fun and throw.”
Behind Schweickert is an offense that returns six other seniors.
Catching Schweickert is third-year senior Lydia Stariha.
After sustaining a shoulder injury that limited her last season, senior Mo Dean will play at first base, while senior Barbi Prokup returns at second base.
Senior Abbey Nowakowski is back at shortstop, while juniors Emmi Christensen, Olivia Mueller or Christine Daley will play at third base.
Seniors Nicole Yaklich and Ella Voss as well as juniors Tara Kunkel, Morgan Knoblauch and Lexie Miranda could all see time in the outfield along with Schweickert when she’s not pitching.
Stariha will hit at the top of the lineup, while Barbi Prokup will bat second, Schweickert third and Dean fourth.
“If we can get some timely hits, with this team — since we have a pitcher who I think is the best in the area — anything is possible,” Bill Prokup said. “It’s just up to them from this point forward. They’ve got to have the desire to be a good team, and they’ve got to learn how to win. They had some success last year, and having a core back, I have high expectations.”
After seeing the girls basketball team advance to the sectional final, the Lady Bruins expect to have similar success.
“Winning the regional is important to us,” Nowakowski said. “We want to get that title, move on to sectionals and go from there.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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