The Hastings Raiders softball team started their season sprinting out of the blocks with four straight wins and outscored their opponents 35-8 in those wins. However, recently they have cooled off with a 7-0 loss at Henry Sibley on Thursday, April 18, and then another at home to North St. Paul Wednesday evening, 2-1. In the loss to the Polars last night, the Raiders played good enough defense and pitched well enough to win. However, the offense sputtered as they scored just one run one six hits and struck out six times. Hastings is now 4-2 overall and in Metro East Conference play.
Raider senior pitcher Kayla Simacek certainly pitched well enough to win and Hastings' defense was solid behind her. After a scoreless first two innings, North St. Paul scored one run in the top of the third after a single fell between the center fielder and middle infielders. Hastings tied it up in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI-single by freshman shortstop Kendal Jenkins that scored senior second-baseman Maddie Junker.
However, the Polars retook the lead in the top of the seventh with a solo home run off Simacek and they led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the inning. The Raiders got pinch-hit singles from seventh-grader Lauren Jenkins and junior Grace Hood with just one out in the inning but stranded them and the final was 2-1 North St. Paul.
Simacek went the distance for Hastings, going seven innings and giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts. She also led the team with two hits, while Junker, Kendal Jenkins, Lauren Jenkins, and Hood all had one hit each. Kendal Jenkins had their lone RBI.
Head coach Ken Lundquist said after the game that his team has struggled offensively the last two games, but that he and his staff have also found some things to work on at the plate.
"I'll put it on our hitters, the first few games they really hit the heck out of the ball and these last two they've struggled," he said. "Mike Mills, our hitting coach, he's been out of town, he identified a few things today when he got here. We're not staying back, we're not staying stacked, coming forward on the ball. I think it's just some little adjustments here and there and we'll start hitting the ball like we did in the beginning."
Despite the last two games, Lundquist said he was satisfied with how his team started the season.
"I am happy, obviously I would like to be undefeated right now," he said. "I think we have the talent, we have the players, we have the coaching. I'd rather lose now than in sections, you do double-elimination sections and things get a little tight after you get that first loss in sections. We're learning as we go, even though we have a lot of seniors, a lot of leadership here, but we're just going to make a few adjustments and we'll be right back at it."
The Raiders have a busy week ahead of them. They host Hill-Murray on Wednesday, April 24, and Simley on Thursday, April 25. They then head to Forest Lake Friday and Saturday for a tournament. They will play Elk River and Rogers and Friday and then have one more game Saturday morning. Hastings' pitching depth will be tested as they end up playing six games in five days. Lundquist said they will use Simacek and freshman Hailey Hoff as much as they are able and go from there.