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Published May 30 2012

Higher class, same success for Hawley softball

Hawley, Minn.

To any new Hawley High School student, you might want to run by Anita Heier’s room sometime soon.

Heier, who is Hawley’s softball coach and a math teacher, won’t be giving out candy, but she’ll probably give out a few “thank yous” instead. Hawley, for the last few years, had been a few students shy of making the jump from Class 1A to 2A. A small enrollment surge bumped the school into the Class 2A stratosphere, and the softball team has benefitted.

A win today over Detroit Lakes (17-7) in the Class 2A, Section 8 title game at Frazee means Hawley (15-3) will have reached the Minnesota state softball tournament for two straight years, but in separate classes.

“We have common opponents finally,” said Heier, who has coached the program for eight seasons. “In conference play, we’d play a lot of the Class 2A schools and when we got to sections, we’d have unfamiliar opponents.” Familiarity has helped Hawley overcome any jitters there might have been when moving up a class.

The Nuggets have won 11 consecutive games, including four playoff games, with two of them – games against Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls – coming on the same day.

Senior catcher Jenny Ritter, one of the team’s three captains, said the biggest change in moving up a class is the depth each team has at the plate.

“You see way better hitting teams,” Ritter said. “You have one through five (in the batting lineup) that do well (in Class 1A) but with bigger schools, they have good batters the whole way through. The pitching is good too. They can really throw the ball and play head games with you. We struggled with batting before and it has come a long ways.” An argument could be made the hitting may has been strong for a while; it’s just that these days the Nuggets are scoring a lot more runs.

Hawley is averaging 8.3 runs per game and it’s enjoying what could be one of its best offensive seasons in program history.

The Nuggets have nine games this year where they have scored 10 or more, runs, tying last season’s mark. It’s a dramatic increase from the 2006-07 season when the program only had three games where it reached double digits.

“You could say it was a leisure sport when I first came here,” said Hawley senior pitcher Jessy Noreen about the program. “But it’s now a sport where girls play in the summer so they can get better for the following spring.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548