Softball preview 2023: More experienced Willmar Cardinals are ready to take a step up
Willmar returns six starters and its head coach, Christian Brown, for a second season
WILLMAR —The Willmar Cardinals got their feet wet under a new head coach in 2022. And while the results were a 2-9 Central Lakes Conference and 4-15 overall record, Christian Brown said he felt like a lot of progress was made.
“I am proud of the way we played last season,” said Brown, who returns for his second season as softball head coach. “We had a lot of hard-fought games, but many of those hard-fought games didn’t go our way.
“As a result, our record didn’t reflect the success we had last season.”
Brown believes that teams may overlook the Cardinals a bit in 2023, but that’s fine.
“Instead of running away from that, I want us to lean into it,” Brown said. “I really want the girls to embrace the underdog role and have fun with it.”
Eight starters return, including seniors Grace Bjur at pitcher, Cadence Parker at catcher, Zoe Schroeder at first base and Hailie Smith at third. Schroeder and Smith are captains. Also a captain is Zadina Butcher, who’ll enter the lineup this season.
Also back are juniors Katelyn Garberding in right field and Lexi Owens in center. Sophomores Hannah Magnuson at shortstop and Madi Norsten at left field and second base also return.
“We have a lot of players that either started for us last year or saw significant varsity time,” Brown said.
Brown believes the conference will be tough. Brainerd (8-0 CLC) is defending CLC champion and Sartell (12-2) was right behind. Both are Class AAAA programs that will be hard to beat. Rocori (9-4) wound up winning Willamr’s section and the St. Cloud Crush (9-4) also has a strong program.
Alexandria (4-9), Fergus Falls (4-8) and Sauk Rapids (0-12) will compete.
“I really think we are going to surprise a lot of teams this year,” Brown said. “Ultimately, we are looking to compete with more teams in the CLC and give ourselves a good chance at making a run in the section, which with what I have been seeing so far this season, is completely in the realm of possibilities.”
Willmar Cardinals 2023 Schedule
April 13 at Alexandria, 4 p.m. (DH)
April 18 vs. Rocori, 4 p.m. (DH)
April 20 at St. Cloud Crush, 4 p.m. (DH)
April 25 vs. Sauk Rapids, 4 p.m. (DH)
April 27 vs. Brainerd, 5 p.m.
May 4 vs. Sartell, 4:30 p.m. (DH)
May 9 at Fergus Falls, 4:30 p.m. (DH)
May 13 at Mound-Westonka Invitational, 9 a.m.