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Talent trumps youth

Chargers third baseman Kennedy Lund (left) places a tag on Morris’ Becca Holland during Tuesday’s game. Lund is one of four freshmen who were in the opening day lineup for Brandon-Evansville. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Brandon-Evansville’s Carrigan Okerlund may only be a freshman, but the Chargers’ catcher doesn’t feel like it on the field anymore.

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She doesn’t perform like it either. Okerlund has been playing varsity sports for a couple years now, and was the Chargers’ second-leading scorer in basketball at 8.2 points per game during the winter. On Tuesday afternoon, she got her softball season off to a good start with two hits and the two game-winning RBIs in a 5-4 win over Morris Area.

“I feel very experienced,” Okerlund said. “I’m really lucky to be able to play with all the people that I do.”

Okerlund isn’t the only freshman who has earned the trust of her head coach on this year’s team. Brandon-Evansville had three freshmen in the starting lineup against the Tigers on Tuesday and hitting in important spots.

Kennedy Lund batted second, right in front of Okerlund in the three hole to make up a good chunk of the top of the lineup. Fellow freshman Morgan Stelzer was responsible for getting things back around to the top while hitting in the ninth spot.

“Kennedy, Morgan and Carrigan were all starters for us last year, so they’re returning,” first-year head coach Kasi Huschle said. “I’m very, very confident in them. They’re smart players. They’re athletes. They have a lot of skill and they’re going to really help us out a lot this year.”

That confidence that Huschle shows in this group of young players helps them when they take the field. Okerlund came up in a tie game in the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs and delivered a sharp single to left against the Tigers. That plated two runs and proved to be the difference in the game after Morris got one back in the seventh.

“I’m really confident with our coach and that she knows what she’s doing,” Okerlund said. “I know all the players, especially the freshmen, of course I’m close with, so I know that they’re skilled enough to do it.”

In addition to the three freshmen, sophomores Katie Kokett and Toni Wright also hit seventh and eighth in the starting lineup on Tuesday. Junior shortstop Emma Friedrich and seniors Kinsley Randt, Megan Kokett and Sara Roers will lead this team as upperclassmen, but they know how important it is that the younger players produce, with them making up more than half the lineup.

“They’re a big part of our team,” Randt said. “They’re good players, and we all trust them because we know they’re going to do what they need to do.”

The Chargers only got five hits against a hard-throwing starter from Morris on Tuesday, but they proved to be big ones with all five of their runs coming with two outs. Brandon-Evansville hopes that continues and that a mix of talented youngsters and upperclassmen can lead to an improvement from a 9-9 season a year ago.

“I think we just want to do better than last year,” Randt said of the Chargers’ goals. “See how far we can get and how good we are.”

* This story originally had Toni Wright named as a freshman for the Chargers. Wright is actually a sophomore.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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