The Hastings Raiders softball team started their season sprinting out of the blocks with four straight wins and outscored their opponents 35-8. However, recently they have cooled off and are just 2-4 since that 4-0 start and their offense has struggled.
The Raiders (6-4 overall, 5-3 Metro East Conference) were shutout on at Henry Sibley 7-0 on Thursday, April 18. The offensive woes continued when they hosted North St. Paul this past Tuesday on the field behind Grossman as their regular varsity field was still soft in areas due to the rain.
In the loss to the Polars, the Raiders played good defense and pitched well enough to win. However, the offense sputtered as they scored just one run on six hits and struck out six times.
Raider senior pitcher Kayla Simacek certainly pitched well 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 took 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 in favor of 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."
Hastings has just six regular season games, plus a tournament, before the section playoffs start on Tuesday, May 21.
Rest of the week
Hastings bounced back the day after its loss to the Polars when the team welcomed Hill-Murray and shutout the Pioneers 8-0. Simacek got the win as she continued her strong pitching from the day before.
However, the offensive struggles came back when the Raiders hosted Simley for their third home game in a row this past Thursday as once again the Hastings scored just one run and fell 2-1 to the Spartans.
The Raiders were supposed to play three games Friday and Saturday in a tournament at Forest Lake, but that was shortened to just two on Friday due to the weather that was supposed to roll through on Saturday. Hastings won a tight first game against Elk River 1-0 as Simacek struck out nine batters for the win. The next game, they lost to Rogers 8-2.
Hastings travels to Tartan on Tuesday, April 30, and then host South St. Paul on Thursday, May 2. On Saturday, they travel to Shakopee for a tournament where they will play several games in one day.