News Tribune prep softball players of the year

Neither Hermantown's Megan Mullen nor Barnum's Katrina Newman can recall how they fared against the other during a summer-league softball game a couple of years ago.

Neither Hermantown's Megan Mullen nor Barnum's Katrina Newman can recall how they fared against the other during a summer-league softball game a couple of years ago.

"They killed us, that's all I remember," Newman said of Mullen's team.

It's a good bet that a Mullen vs. Newman at-bat would be remembered this year. After posting mind-numbing statistics and leading their respective teams to state tournament runner-up finishes, the seniors were chosen as the News Tribune's co-2010 All-Area Players of the Year. It's the first time, in any sport, players have shared the award since its inception 17 years ago.

The right-handed duo had strikingly similar seasons, from pitching their teams into the state tournament and throwing a no-hitter in the semifinals to being feared hitters at the plate.

They'll cross paths next year, but only as college students and not as teammates. Mullen is headed to Minnesota Duluth for softball, and Newman will play basketball for the Bulldogs.


Mullen finishes stellar career

Mullen's success was no surprise. The right-hander capped a four-year career in which she posted a 68-12 record with 902 strikeouts by playing in her third consecutive state tournament and second straight championship game.

Though the defending champion Hawks lost to Park Center 2-1 in the title game, Mullen had another successful campaign. The Ms. Softball candidate was 21-4 with a 0.41 ERA and 318 strikeouts in 220 innings.

"There's no question that she had a lot of God-given ability from the onset, but she's continued to get better and better every year," Hawks coach Tom Bang said. "If it's possible, other than winning the state tournament, she had a better year than last year in terms of numbers, RBI production and a more effective use of a change-up.

"She's an intense competitor on the mound, and you hate to be in any kind of a game with her, because she always competes to win. It's hard to believe that she's not going to be part of our program anymore."

Mullen also batted .413 with a team-leading 40 RBIs from the third spot in the order.

"She's such a good pitcher that not many people realize what a good batter she is," senior catcher Ellen Folman said.

Mullen didn't take long to show her skills at the plate or on the mound. As a freshman against Esko, she hit a grand slam and stepped in with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning to force Sami Mattson, that season's Player of the Year, into a groundout to preserve the victory.


"She's been that kind of a kid right from the beginning, and we're going to miss her here," Bang said. "But I believe she's got everything it takes to be successful at the next level and I wish her the best in that endeavor."

That next level is Division II softball, where Mullen will be throwing from the college distance of 43 feet. She's been throwing at that distance, 3 feet farther than in high school, the past couple of years in summer ball.

"It's nice to be able to have that exposure (to a 43-foot distance), and it's a little bit easier to hit the ball, too," she said.

Newman excelled in two sports

Newman, who doubled as the News Tribune's Player of the Year in basketball for leading the Bombers to their first state title, said the team's softball success was a surprise.

"We don't get to state every year (in softball) at Barnum, so it was a good season," she said.

That was mainly due to Newman's development as a pitcher. With the help of first-year assistant coach Stan Karich, she learned several new pitches, including a hard-to-hit riseball.

"She's phenomenal," longtime Bombers coach Randy Myhre said. "It's so rare to see a player excel to the level she did in basketball and softball. She's quite the athlete."


Newman was 17-2 with a minuscule 0.18 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 116 innings. She tossed an amazing nine no-hitters, including two in the Section 5A playoffs and one in the Class A state semifinals. The All-State player hit .402 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs.

"We've had some good pitchers over the years -- Jana Ferguson, Kristin Ferguson, Teresa Jeffers, my daughter Megan -- but none of them could hit like Kat, and play shortstop as well," Myhre said.

Myhre was most impressed by Newman's determination, whether it was overcoming several knee surgeries or playing against a tough opponent.

"A lot of times when the going gets tough, kids surrender," Myhre said. "But because she's worked so hard, the thought of surrendering has never entered her mind. She continues to battle."

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