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MCW’s Anderson hopes for summer softball extension

THE WIND-UP — Martin County West’s Shaylynn Anderson goes into the wind-up before firing a delivery to the plate during regular-season prep softball action at Fox Lake Sports Complex in Welcome last spring. Maverick second baseman Karlee Thiesse looks on. Anderson’s goal of playing varsity softball with her younger sister this spring hinges upon whether the rest of the school year will be cancelled and/or if the MSHSL extends the spring sports seasons into the summer. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells/Sentinel Archives)

SHERBURN — As each “every-day-is-the-same” slowly clicks off the calendar, the chances that the regularly-allotted athletic events for the rest of the Minnesota prep spring schedule being played are not favorable.

In an effort to salvage some semblance of normalcy, cognizant coaches, athletes and fans formulated and posted on Facebook a petition calling for the Minnesota State High School League to extend the spring sports seasons into the summer months.

“I read the petition online and thought, ‘Why not see if it works?'” Martin County West senior hurler Shaylynn Anderson said with a laugh, “so I signed it.

“The last time I checked, I think the petition had 12,000 signatures or so, but who knows what decision the high school league will make.”

While the hard-throwing left-hander was on track to be Maverick head softball coach Darrell Ziegler’s ace inside the chalked circle this season, Anderson’s motives for wanting to play her senior season extend beyond her love of the game and the athletic connections with her teammates.

“This would have been the only chance I had to play softball at the varsity level with my sister Thea, who’s a freshman this year,” said Shaylynn, who earned Sentinel All-Area and all-Valley Conference softball accolades in 2019. “She’s been my catcher ever since we were little. … Now, with the shutdown for the coronavirus likely to be extended, we won’t get to play together one last time.”

Ironically, while Shaylynn and Thea are not currently donning Martin County West softball jerseys for official high school games at the Fox Lake Sports Complex in Welcome, the siblings are keeping their arms in shape by working out on their family’s farm outside of Sherburn during the statewide moratorium on athletic events.

“Thea and I have been playing catch inside a shed we have on the farm, and I’ve also been pitching into a net we have set up,” said Shaylynn, who recorded 18 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched during her junior campaign. “So, if we are able to return to the field in the next couple of weeks, we’ll both be ready to play, but the chances that’s going to happen don’t look too good now.”

Shaylynn knows first-hand how valuable that playing time at the varsity level would be for Thea after experiencing a moment that proved pivotal in her stellar prep softball career when she was a freshman.

“I was in ninth grade and coach Ziegler had me on the varsity roster for the sectional tournament,” said Shaylynn. “I remember when he came up to me in the dugout and told me I was going into the game to pitch.

“I was super nervous, but I managed to get my first varsity strikeout against Pipestone. Being able to do that against a team that won the section championship gave me the confidence I needed to pitch at the varsity level down the road.”

If the remainder of the high school softball season is cancelled, Shaylynn’s next stop in the sport will be only 20 miles away at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, Iowa.

Shaylynn — who also earned Sentinel All-Area honors during the 2019 prep volleyball season as a setter and server — however, has opted to compete in softball only at the collegiate level.

“I plan to live at home while I’m going to school at Iowa Lakes, so with the commute and homework figured in, it’s easier to stick with just one sport,” said Shaylynn. “The (Iowa Lakes) coaches know that I pitch, but the team needs outfielders and I’m OK with the change.”

Ironically, while Shaylynn isn’t firing fastballs or driving opposing pitchers’ deliveries into the outfield for hits due to social distancing, her life in the classroom and on the farm has not changed much during the interim.

When she’s not completing her regular chores on the homestead, Shaylynn is taking a calculus course at Southwest Minnesota State University through Martin County West High School, in addition to four PSEO (postsecondary enrollment options) classes through Minnesota West Community and Technical College this spring. Despite getting a jumpstart on her collegiate academic career via e-learning, she admits missing her teachers and coaches.

“I didn’t realize how important they (teachers) are, especially from a face-to-face learning situation,” said Shaylynn. “Google classroom is OK, but it’s nice to ask questions and be able to get answers right away.”

So, throughout the six-week shutdown, is there anything else that she’s learned in the process?

“Honestly, I didn’t think it’d ever happen to a small rural area like us,” Shaylynn said. “It just goes to show you that you never know when your last day will be in school, sports or even life.”

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