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Kerry Collins, Published June 04 2009

Minnesota state softball tournament: Hawley makes strides as it prepares for first state berth

Hawley’s softball team is a bunch of copy cats.

One year after the Nuggets made it to the state baseball tournament for the first time in school history, Hawley’s softball team has matched the feat.

“This is where we wanted to be this year,” Hawley softball coach Anita Heier said. “This was a group that expected to be there, and now we just have to keep going on.”

This is just the seventh season of fastpitch for Hawley, but the Nuggets enter today’s first round with a sparkling 19-1 record.

The Nuggets take on East Grand Forks Sacred Heart in the first round of the Class 1A tournament at 1 p.m. today at North Mankato’s Caswell Park.

Like last year’s baseball team, this Hawley fastpitch team got to state behind some quality pitching.

The Nuggets are led by pitcher Jessy Noreen. The freshman is 15-1 with an ERA of 1.08.

She has struck out 151 in her 97 innings, giving up just 45 hits.

“She’s basically been shutting everybody down,” Heier said. “She’s started for us since the seventh grade, and she’s pitched all the way through.

“She’s got more maturity, and she’s grown, and she plays like an upperclassman right now.”

Offensively, the Nuggets don’t have many girls that are going to crack long shots over the fence.

But Hawley does have a loaded lineup with a number of girls that can hit.

“Our thing is getting base hits and playing some games on the bases,” Heier said. “We want to make the other team play some defense behind us, but it seems like the kids always come through with big hits when we have runners in scoring position.”

Jordan Iverson is the team’s top hitter, sporting a batting average of .482. She’s also the only Nugget with some pop, having hit six of the team’s seven home runs on the season.

But five other regulars are hitting over .300 in Allie Sannes (.473), Jessica Horn (.373), Noreen (.323), Stacie Olson (.316) and Alli Sorenson (.313).

The main goal for this group was making it to the state tournament after a close call last season.

The Nuggets went 15-2 last season, but one loss was a 5-4 setback to Verndale in the section championship.

“This year is kind of the culmination of the last two seasons,” Heier said. “We had high expectations coming into this year after getting so close.”

And this team has grown up as the program as grown, so it’s especially meaningful, Heier said.

“This group is extremely excited because most of them have been here through the building of this program,” Heier said. “A lot of these have been playing varsity since the seventh and eighth grade, so this means a lot.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com