Softball finds its sweet spot

A revamped girls’ team on the path to success

C.C. Lucas, Creative Director

“The end goal is always somehow to get to state. Somehow or another we got there last year,” explains Greta Morgan ‘15, a first baseman and second-year captain for the girls’ softball team. With a major update to the team roster, the Bears are ready to compete.

     Joe Waalk, the team’s new coach, has “coached college football, softball, [and] baseball. He does a lot of sports; he knows a lot about coaching,” says Morgan.

      “We weren’t a cohesive team [last year],” Morgan admits. “This year it’s definitely a lot smoother. We got a new coach and he’s redoing the program. His goal isn’t to make us win–it’s to make us compete.”

     “What we had before was kind of like, ‘Oh, you wanna play softball? Cool.’ This year, it’s kind of like, ‘So you want to play softball. What are you looking to work on? What can we help you with? Do you want an opportunity to do this?’ And [his coaching style is] all about just getting the chance to improve yourself so you can be better on the team when you get your chance.”

     Waalk doesn’t limit the renovations to amping up the team attitude. He has built a number of new traditions that both bond the team and crank up the rigor, including the addition of Saturday practices. Morgan also notes that during games, Waalk calls the team in for frequent huddles and previews how the whole team can perform better the next inning.

        The new coach has been an excellent influence for particularly experienced and dedicated players, such as Sammy Wagner ‘17. Wagner notes, “I [was the catcher] last year, but this year I’m pitching.” One of Waalk’s improvements has been to shuffle many of the players into new positions.

       Wagner grew up with softball, beginning with “coach pitch” (what is “essentially t-ball) around the time she entered kindergarten. With nearly a decade of experience both at Blake and beyond the school team, she has been recognized twice recently for her outstanding prowess.

     On April 14, she was named the Star Tribune Athlete of the Week, and two days later became an Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week.

     Wagner attributes her success to “[having] a good three games just to start the season.” The Old Dutch award was followed by a short radio story. “They chose one athlete from every sport, I think, and WCCO did a little story about that.”

     She reflects that “[the recognition] shows the hard work I’m doing on the off season is paying off. But honestly, I just love playing softball so much. It’s just fun.”

     Wagner and Morgan, two of the team’s most experienced and skillful players, both started the sport young and fell in love. Morgan picked up softball when she was in third grade: “[I] kind of tried every other [recreational] sports team, and this is the one that stuck. And then in seventh grade it was offered, so I took it.”

     Her freshman year, numerous spots on the varsity roster became available, and Morgan snagged one for herself, continuing on to be a captain her junior and senior years.

     The characteristics of softball have always drawn her in: “You always have things to better yourself in, but you’re competing as a team, which I really like.”

     Waalk is assisting the team to achieving a vastly improved cooperative and cohesive state. With strong individuals, a young roster, and an invincible collective mind-set, the girls’ softball team is looking at the start of a golden age.