Defending Section 7AAA softball champion Hermantown off to strong start

Hermantown pounded out 16 hits enroute to an impressive, 9-2 victory over Duluth East in a nonconference high school softball game last Friday afternoon at Ordean Middle School Field in Duluth.

Peyton Fath, Alana Mayry and Savannah Erickson all had three hits for the Hawks. Hannah Mihalik recorded the complete-game pitching victory.

Gabby Blomdahl and Bryton Kukowski chipped in with two hits apiece, and eight of nine Hermantown starters recorded at least one hit in the team’s season opener.

“It was really good to get outside to play,” Hawks Coach Tom Bang said afterwards. “Kudos to East for moving the game up to earlier in the season, to allow us to play on their beautiful carpet and in beautiful weather. We’re down five games in a 20-game regular season schedule, so it was important to finally get in a game.”

Bang said he was impressed by Mikalik’s effort.

“Anna pitched a little for us last year, but she’s really a middle infielder by trade,” said Bang. “She scattered five hits and struck out seven. It’s sort of all hands on deck on the mound this year.”

Bang was also pleased by the offensive contribution of his seven through nine hitters in the batting order, as Erickson, Kukowski and Jenna Reynolds went a combined 6-for-10 and scored four runs.

“We had good efforts from the top to bottom of our lineup,” Bang said. “With live pitching, tee drills, hitting off the machine or soft toss, hitting is generally ahead of pitching and fielding early in the season. We didn’t necessarily tear the cover off the ball in preseason scrimmages at Eden Prairie and St. Cloud, so it was refreshing to see us hit well out of the gate. But, we still have to get tested by a variety of different levels of hitting.”

The Hawks lost to Winona in the Minnesota Class 3A state championship game last season, finishing 19-5 overall, and graduated only four seniors.

“We’ve got three excellent pitchers, two with varsity experience including Kaitlyn Ewer was 9-2, won the Section 7AAA championship game and one game at state a year ago,” said Bang. “Mikalik is a very good athlete, and Mayre, a sophomore, was an elite pitcher on our strong jayvee team last year. We’re rebuilding a bit on the mound, and none of our pitchers are overpowering. But they are excellent pitchers.”

Bang said the Hawks’ stiffest competition in the Section 7AAA tournament will likely be Chisago Lakes, North Branch and Duluth Denfeld.

“I don’t know if there’s any team in our section that’s locked and loaded, so it should be an exciting section tourney,” said Bang.

On Tuesday, in Superior, Hermantown will face Ashland at 2 p.m. and Superior at 4:30 p.m.

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