Majettes mix experience, youth

Jessie Kongelf has been around West Region softball long enough to know what works and what will devoid a team of a state-tournament berth.

The four-year starter’s last three seasons were the latter.

So when Minot opens its season today at 4 p.m. at Bismarck High, Kongelf and the Majettes know what they’ll have to do to help end their three-year state drought.

Generate runs against quality opposition.

“That was our problem last year,” said Kongelf, a two-time all-West Region infielder. “We couldn’t score, and we’re going to have to do a lot of that this year.”

Minot, which boasted a 15-13 record in 2012, averaged a lowly four runs against the region’s top four clubs. The statistic was enough to keep them out of the postseason.

With the return of five starters, fifth-year coach Gerard Cederstrom hopes its enough to improve the lowly statistic.

Right now, though, his biggest concern is meshing the experience with his youth.

“We’ll have a lot of growing pains as the season goes on,” Cederstrom said. “There’s still a lot of question marks.”

A year ago, Minot saw pitcher Maddie Irmen throw to fellow departed senior Katie Clark the majority of the season. Leading the Majettes’ battery this year will be juniors Lexi Benno and Tahnee Apland.

Benno has had her share of quality innings the last two seasons and will shoulder the role of ace this spring.

“She’s has been pitching well for us since her freshman year,” Kongelf said of Benno. “I expect her and some of our younger girls to have good seasons.”

Benno will have enough experience around her, though. Outside of the graduation of all-region infielder Kendra Sjol, the Majettes return a horde of capable defensive players.

Miranda Fenner (utlility) and Ashley Gefroh (outfield) – both expected to bat high in the Majettes’ order along with Kongelf – return along with Ashley Gathman, who will be moving from outfield to infield.

“We’re still moving a lot of kids around,” Cederstom said.

Bishop Ryan, a softball-only Class A program, ran away with the league title last season before taking second at state. Century, Dickinson and Bismarck accounted for the other three berths.

Cederstrom expects the same clubs, along with his own, to vie for one of the coveted slots again this year.

“Bishop Ryan, you have to look at them to be No. 1,” Cederstrom said. “Dickinson has a lot coming back. Same with Century and Bismarck. Right now, based on who’s coming back, I’d say we’re fifth.”