By Jason Groth
The Greenway Raiders softball team started the Katie Sertich era in a big way as they earned an 8-2 victory over the Nashwauk-Keewatin Spartans at the Plymouth Dome on Tuesday to kick off the season. Sertich, a long time Greenway assistant, is in her first season as head coach with the Raiders after Kyle Erickson accepted the Itasca Community College head coaching position.
“We took a big trip down to Plymouth with Nashwauk-Keewatin and we were off to a rough start. We had a couple of errors in that first inning and Nashwauk-Keewatin scored a couple of runs,” Sertich said. “After the first inning jitters, we snapped out of it and started hitting the ball and we hit the ball really well that game. Nashwauk has an excellent pitcher in Kelsey Kennedy and I was really happy with the girls hitting so well against a high caliber pitcher.”
The Raiders received a strong pitching performance from Rylie Donahue to start the season. Donahue will be part of a pitching rotation that will feature Seri Geisler as well. Donahue went the distance, scattering five hits while striking out 10 and allowing only three runs.
“Riley has been working hard all winter long and she has improved immensely from last season,” Sertich said. “We also have Seri Geisler who will be putting some time in on the mound this year as well.”
The Raiders used a strong plate attack as they roped out 11 hits with Katrina Kyllander chipping in with two hits including a triple. Donahue had two hits and drove in two runs as well. Geisler added two hits in the opening victory.
The Raiders are a very young team with just two seniors on the roster in the form of Kyllander and Sarah Beth Reed. However, the young members of the team return with valuable experience.
“We do have a very young team and at first that was a concern of mine. It turns out that it wasn’t an issue at all. These girls are determined, hard-working and they work great together,” Sertich said. “The first game kind of showed that I’m looking forward to getting the season going in the next couple of weeks.”
Kyllander is expected to see duties at first base and possibly behind the plate as well. Ashleigh Troumbly is a junior and brings speed to the table. Chelsea Troumbly is behind the plate and had a nice start to the season. Maggie Vekich collected three hits in the opener and drove in four and is a player that Sertich says has really stepped up in the early going.
Sertich says the team struggled defensively the first game but chalks it up to nerves as well as being on a field for the first time and expects that to be taken care of.
“We have Geisler at second base when she doesn’t pitch and in my opinion is the best defensive player in this part of the state. She is an animal at the plate and can hit the ball hard,” Sertich said of the imposing left handed hitter.
The Raiders have moved to Section 7A, however, still maintain that strong Class AA schedule that they have in the past. The schedule features contests with Grand Rapids, Virginia, Hermantown and the annual Iron Range Conference Tournament.
“I think that schedule is really going to help us for playoffs by playing these tough big schools,” Sertich said.
Sertich says that she had some of those opening day nerves as she made her debut as head coach. Sertich had been an assistant with the Raider program and that helped with the transition to head coach.
“I had the first game jitters that’s for sure and I tried to make sure the girls didn’t notice it,” Sertich said. “The transition has been alright. Kyle did a great job of getting me into the program and letting me get to know the girls real well. He let me have a big role last year as an assistant coach. My role this year is more practice planning and being in charge and that was kind of my nerve wracking part of it. I jumped right into it and we have been into it for a month and I feel this is where I should be.”
Kelsey Kennedy was tagged with the loss for the Spartans. She allowed 11 hits while striking out seven batters in the loss.
The Raiders were scheduled to be at home on Thursday when they take on the International Falls Broncos in Bovey.