Fairmont mentor Terry Ehlert's talent-laden softball lineup rewrote the program's record books in 2013.
The hard-hitting Cardinals made their first-ever appearance in a sectional semifinal on the strength of an unprecedented four postseason victories en route to a third-place showing in Section 3AA last spring.
Fairmont also produced the school's single-season victory total, while matching the program's best winning percentage of .500 behind an 11-11 overall record.
DELIVERING STRIKES — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals softball lineup traveling to St. Peter on Monday for its 5:30 p.m. season opener include, front row (l-r): Jess Koskovich, Abby Fitzgerald, Taylor Nuss, Kristen Campe and Aly Eversman. Middle: Courtney Guetter, Karen Flores, Laura Tow, Samantha Henricksen and Micaela Gochanour. Back: Head coach Terry Ehlert, Lisa Craig, Allison Moeller, Tieryn Arens, Kayla Lardy, Mikayla Krzywicki and assistant coach Chuck Allen. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
So, what are Ehlert and his record-setting Cardinals planning to do for an encore performance in 2014?
"We actually need to get better, and not have an 0-7 start to the season like we did last year," said Ehlert, whose lineup is scheduled to travel to St. Peter on Monday for its 5:30 p.m. season opener. "We can't rest on our laurels. It was nice to break all of those records, but it would be even nicer to win more games this season and go even further in the playoffs."
With eight of his top 10 varsity veterans returning to the diamond this spring, Ehlert believes the 2014 version of Cardinals can achieve those lofty goals.
Senior co-captains Kristen Campe and Courtney Guetter, along with junior third baseman Micaela Gochanour, will lead the way for Fairmont on the heels of all-Section 3AA and All-Area campaigns.
"Our captains are playing their fifth seasons each at the varsity level, and have given us great leadership both on and off the field," said Ehlert. "Campe's more of a quiet captain who leads by example, while Guetter is more of a vocal leader.
"As a coach, it's a nice luxury of having one in the outfield and another one in the infield."
While Campe has proven a sure-handed and strong-armed shortstop, the senior also displayed lethal lumber during her junior campaign, including a pivotal three-run home run during the Cardinals' seventh-inning comeback and eventual 9-4 triumph over Morris Area/ Chokio-Alberta in the sectional quarterfinals.
The all-SCC middle infielder pounded out an impressive .437 batting average to generate team-leading totals of 24 RBIs, 10 doubles and three triples. Campe also topped Fairmont's statistical charts in slugging (.746) and on-base percentage (.529).
Meanwhile, Guetter battled back from knee surgery that made her miss the entire 2012 season, and produced impressive numbers from the leadoff spot in the Cardinals' batting order.
The perennial All-Area outfielder scored 27 runs, collected 10 RBIs, hit at a .371 clip and reached base at a .413 pace last spring.
While Guetter and Campe also will anchor an improved defense, Gochanour returns both a potent bat - that proved key behind Fairmont's impressive .311 team batting average and 155 runs scored - and quick-reflex defense at the hot corner.
The all-SCC third baseman topped the red-and-white batting order with a .468 average and 28 runs scored, but also displayed her ability to connect on the long ball. Gochanour belted two homers and nine doubles to drive in 14 runs, while producing a .512 on-base mark and .688 slugging clip.
Senior Allison Moeller returns to her familiar spot at first base for a third varsity campaign to round out the infield, while strong-armed sophomore Tieryn Arens will call signals from behind the plate for a second consecutive season.
Senior right-hander Mikayla Krzywicki and junior right-hander Aly Eversman will comprise the Cardinals' pitching staff after each logged innings at the varsity level a year ago.
Krzywicki notched three of Fairmont's four playoff victories on the strength of complete-game efforts.
"Mikayla and Aly really give us a good 1-2 punch inside the circle," said Ehlert. "Our experience at the pitching spot should be helpful in us reaching some of our goals this season."
When Krzywicki steps to the pitching rubber, Eversman will join Guetter and sophomore Abby Fitzgerald in patrolling the outfield for another season.
Seniors Kayla Lardy, Jess Koskovich, Laura Tow and Samantha Henricksen also will contend for playing time in the outfield.
Freshman Taylor Nuss and senior Karen Flores will compete for the starting job at second base, while senior Lisa Craig will fill the designated hitter role as well as being the backup catcher.
"I think our summer program has toughened up most of these players mentally," said Ehlert. "We've just started to learn how to win, and hopefully, that will carry over into this season."
Chuck Allen returns as the varsity assistant and pitching coach, Haley Loerts will take over as the Cardinals' head junior varsity coach, while Teresa Kiehl will be the JV assistant.