A year after winning the Section 4A title and blasting into the program’s first-ever state tournament, Randolph softball is poised to protect that crown as the No. 1 seed.
That title defense started Monday in less than dramatic fashion during a 21-0, four-inning victory against eighth-seeded Cristo Rey Jesuit at Randolph High School, and will continue Wednesday against fourth-seeded Mayer Lutheran.
What Mayer Lutheran (6-14) and Cristo Rey (1-10) have in common, is that the Class A No. 5 Rockets (19-2) and their coach Dennis Trom have nearly the same level of familiarity with each, since they were unable to play a single game against a section opponent during the regular season this year.
“I haven’t seen anybody,” Trom said. “We usually schedule Mayer Lutheran and West Lutheran, but those got rained out this year and we weren’t able to reschedule it. I haven’t seen anybody this year at all, and that’s tough.”
While Trom hasn’t seen any potential opponents, second-seeded Kimball, which Randolph beat twice to win last year’s title, has been scouted once. Other than that, though, the Rockets are flying blind into this year’s postseason.
While Randolph played Mayer Lutheran twice last year, in the regular season and the playoffs, it’s got a new pitcher this year the Rockets have yet to see. The same can be said for Kimball, and while third-seeded West Lutheran (10-7) has the same arm back in the circle as last year, senior Afton Zemke, who was tabbed all-state honorable mention as a junior, there’s a chance it doesn’t get past Kimball (12-7) on the other side of the bracket.
“We don’t know what we’re going to see,” Trom said. “What we talk a lot about is hitting, is adjusting to the pitcher.”
Monday, that meant readjusting the scope to account for erratic Cristo Rey pitching, which helped Randolph draw 13 walks and be hit by two pitches, compared to the only seven hits that were needed to rack up the 21 runs in three turns at the plate.
Wednesday figures to be a different type of test. While Mayer Lutheran has accounted for only six wins this year, including Monday’s win against Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, the bulk of its schedule has been against Class AA teams.
“They’re in a tough conference, so their record doesn’t look good, but they’re a quality team and will want to come down here and stomp on us,” Trom said.
That last part is the new reality for Randolph, the defending section champ and the bracket’s top seed. That’s why entering this year’s postseason, the approach has been different than last year.
“It’s a separate thing,” Trom said. “Last year was a little different because we were the second seed coming in, now we’re the first seed. We just talked about doing our job and not worrying about other teams.”