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Trojan softballers undergo 'growth spurt'

A new coach enters the picture. Seven key varsity players from the year before are gone. It's a season to get started, work on the weaknesses and recognize the strengths -- what most teams would call a "growth year." It seems that the Duluth Cent...

A new coach enters the picture. Seven key varsity players from the year before are gone. It's a season to get started, work on the weaknesses and recognize the strengths -- what most teams would call a "growth year." It seems that the Duluth Central Trojan girls softball team has had a growth spurt.
"People thought we weren't going to be any good; other teams in Duluth, a lot of people ... but it was better than anyone expected." said Lindsey Lundeen, senior ace for the varsity team.
Coach Nat Brown agrees.
"I think we went further than people anticipated. We had four players with varsity experience, but we made it to the (Section 7AA) Final Four," he said.
Final Four? The Trojans finished 13-11, had an above .500 average and came within a step of making it to state. That's quite an achievement for a team experiencing a "growth year."
"We did very well," said junior shortstop Amy Potvien. "We surprised a lot of our opponents ... I think that this year's team was the most positive team that I've played on during my five years at Central."
One opponent surprised by the Trojans was Cloquet, in a game that nearly every player remembers as the highlight of the year.
"The Cloquet game in the playoffs was probably the best thing I've ever experienced in my time at Central," said Lundeen. She has been on Central's varsity team since ninth grade.
Cloquet was heavily favored, but after a grueling 15 innings, the Trojans achieved a 2-1 upset win.
"We just totally played out of our minds," said Brown. "They were the home team, so every inning they had a chance to win it .... We have a strong defense, though."
The Trojans know how to play under pressure, as well, and in the heat of the Final Four, they pulled off another upset, this time against Forest Lake, one of the top 10 teams in the state.
The team is not without its weaknesses, though, and the players are aware of this. "When we strike out, the team gets down, but the seniors usually pull us up again," said sophomore outfielder Elizabeth Doty.
"We need to work on hitting," said junior third baseman Ashley Graves. "For the most part, we did a good job. Our new coach and getting as far as we did really made this year great."
"We played as a team. We weren't selfish. We didn't go out there wanting it for ourselves, we went out there wanting it for the team," said Potvien. That sentiment was echoed at the team's end-of-the-season banquet
Next year, the momentum should continue. "We know each other better and we have really grown stronger," said Graves, "I think we'll do even better next year."
"It's good to get that first year under your belt. I was really satisfied," said Coach Brown. " Next year we are looking to go even further."
In the end, it may not be about the wins. Lundeen put her love of softball into words. "It keeps me busy -- friendship, memories, just playing in the games is the greatest feeling ever. Just knowing that I'm trying hard for my school. I take pride in my school."
Lundeen has some words for next year's team, also. "Good luck. I'll be their biggest fan, and I'll miss them."

Jesse Sawyer is a student at Central High School.

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