The last time the Northfield softball team was on the field, it was lifting the Class AAA championship trophy above their heads in 2019.

Since then, the Raiders have undergone a program transformation, as the classes of 2019 and 2020 have graduated, and four players from the class of 2021 inked college commitments to continue their softball careers after graduation.

Senior pitcher Brynn Hostettler is headed to the University of Minnesota, senior infielder Payton Fox will play at St. Cloud State, senior catcher Chloe Rozga committed to Luther College and senior outfielder Chloe Rozga is set to play at Bethel.

Before any of that happens, however, the Raiders have a season to play and an upgrade in postseason competition to handle with the program’s shift up to Class AAAA, which happened prior to the 2020 season that was ultimately cancelled.

“We were excited to move up a class and play with the bigger schools,” Northfield coach Ryan Pietsch said. “Our kids are definitely ready for it. We’ve got some of the top 4A schools in the state on the schedule with Eastview, Farmington, Chanhassen and New Prague, so we’re excited to play them.”

That creates one of the more challenging schedules in the slate once added to the Big 9 Conference slate, which includes a Mankato West team whose only 2019 losses came against Class AAAA state champion Maple Grove and against Northfield in the Class AAA state championship game.

Helping the Raiders navigate that schedule is that talented group of seniors, which also includes Avery Valek, who started at designated hitter in the Class AAA championship, and Gabi Schmoll.

“They’re all dedicated to the sport and they all work hard year round at softball, so we’re definitely expecting all of them to contribute,” Pietsch said.

Also figuring to help out is a two-player junior class in Katie Balster and Sammy Noreen, who both play softball as their primary sport, and a large sophomore class that helped the 2019 junior varsity team tear through its schedule.

“That has a lot of kids that play and a lot of kids that are dedicated to the game of softball,” Pietsch said. “We’re excited to see what they can do. Courtney Graff is one in that sophomore class that we’re excited to see on the field, and then there’s a handful of others as well.”

ROSTER

Payton Fox, senior

Mikaela Girard, senior

Brynn Hostettler, senior

Chloe Rozga, senior

Gabi Schmoll, senior

Avery Valek, senior

Katie Balster, junior

Sammy Noreen, junior

Rylee Blandin, sophomore

Courtney Graff, sophomore

Ruby Holman, sophomore

Lucy Menssen, sophomore

Megan Snyder, sophomore

Ava Stanchina, sophomore

2021 SCHEDULE

April 8 — vs. Owatonna, 5 p.m.

April 10 — vs. Mankato West, 1 p.m.

April 12 — vs. Eastview, 5 p.m.

April 15 — at Chanhassen, 7 p.m.

April 17 — vs. Rochester Mayo, noon (DH)

April 20 — at Faribault, 5 p.m.

April 22 — vs. Mankato East, 5 p.m.

April 26 — vs. Kasson-Mantorville, 4 p.m.

April 27 — at Owatonna, 5 p.m.

April 29 — at Mankato West, 5 p.m.

May 4 — vs. Rochester John Marshall, 5 p.m.

May 6 — at Rochester Century, 4 p.m.

May 11 — at Red Wing, 5 p.m.

May 13 — vs. Winona, 5 p.m.

May 14 — at New Prague, 4:30 p.m.

May 17 — vs. Farmington, 5 p.m.

May 20 — vs. Austin, 5 p.m.

May 27 — at Albert Lea, 5 p.m.

Reach Regional Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @APGSoMnHughes. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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