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Prep softball: KMS armed and dangerous

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The KMS softball team has a whale of an offense, producing more than 11 runs a game this season as the Saints compiled a 22-0 record and put themselves in the Class A state tournament for a second straight year.

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But, in reality, most of the big numbers have been as necessary as frosting on a brownie.

When a team can pitch and play defense like KMS, every Saints' run scored has to feel like a touchdown or two to an opponent.

The Saints' two top pitchers this season, Erin Haglund and Sam Dunn, have 13-0 and 9-0 records, respectively, and the team has allowed an average of just 0.96 runs per game.

Dunn has worked 54 innings, striking out 56 while issuing just 12 walks. She has a 1.17 ERA. And what has to be dispiriting to many wanna-be contenders, there's a strong chance that Dunn, as the team's top shortstop and offensive threat, might not ever step into the circle during the state tournament weekend.

That's because Haglund has a 0.74 ERA in 76 innings this season. She's given up just 20 hits and six walks while striking out 113. The Saints, win or lose, play two games on Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato - opening with Cherry at 1 p.m. -- and Haglund is scheduled to start both games.

"I've coached both of them since they were in fourth grade," said Saints head coach Eileen Suter of her two junior aces. "I knew then that there was something coming up that was pretty special."

Dunn has been playing with the Saints' varsity since 7th grade and Haglund became a regular as an 8th grader. Last season, as sophomores, they led the Saints to the Class A semifinals, where they lost 3-2 to eventual state champion New Life Academy. They defeated Blooming Prairie in the third-place game, and came back more determined than ever, even as opponents wished they would be done, already.

"I think there are a lot of teams in our (Camden) conference who are ready to see them go," Suter said with a laugh. "I think their consistency is a big thing. They both throw a lot of strikes and they can both throw good change-ups."

While Haglund's and Dunn's successes appear to mirror the others, they've take different approaches to those ends.

Dunn is a three-sport athlete who has had to deal with the demands of her other sports pursuits.

Last summer, just weeks after the Saints' softball tournament run, she blew out her knee playing basketball. That cost her prep volleyball and basketball seasons, but she obviously came back to her spring sport in good stead. She's one of the team's top hitters and run producers.

While she also plays some volleyball, since her freshman year Haglund has been a dedicated softball player. In the summer, fall and winter, she plays and works out with a traveling softball team, the Danes, which is centered in Hudson, Wis., and plays throughout the upper midwest and at points around the nation.

"I feel like I've improved a lot," Haglund said. "I'm a lot stronger this year and I know more about my mechanics."

While Dunn and Haglund haven't given their defensive teammates a lot of work this year, the Saints have been up to snuff when called upon. They have committed just 21 errors this season.

"Our defense can't complain about pitchers throwing no-hitters and one-hitters all the time," said Saints second baseman Ellen Johnson. "It might get a little boring back there sometimes, but we can't complain. But (the pitchers) know if they face good hitters we'll get outs for them. They have the confidence to know that we've got their backs."

Dunn and Haglund work well together, on the field and in their burgeoning roles as coaches. Suter and her daughter Laura, a former Saints star, coach one youth softball team during the summer months while Dunn and Haglund team up to coach another group.

They are competitors, teachers and leaders, but Haglund sums up their approach a little more simply.

"I definitely think we're a confident team," she said. "But we're just a hard-working bunch of girls who were bound and determined to get back to the (state) tournament and do more damage than we did last year."

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Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

(320) 214-4372
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