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Colfax softball team graduates four seniors

Four seniors, including three who were four year varsity players and one who began playing this year, ended their high school softball days for the Colfax Vikings after their regional loss to Durand May 27.

Kori Buchanan, Courtney Ottinger and Karina Wait all began playing on the varsity as freshmen for then coach Joe Doucette with Ottinger taking over the catcher spot and Wait centerfield while Buchanan was the starting rightfielder for three years before moving to third base as a senior. Natalie Dworak decided to go out for the team her senior year and played in the outfield one game. The Vikings were 44-37 overall in the past four seasons and were 26-30 in Dunn-St. Croix Conference play with their highest finish coming a year ago when they were 12-4 for third place. The team went 9-9 in conference play this season and were 9-11 overall.

Buchanan played in 79 games over four years, scored 87 runs with 74 hits which included 16 doubles, nine triples and seven home runs. She collected 63 RBIs and dropped her number of strikeouts from 26 as a freshman to three as a senior. She  stole 18 bases with 12 of them this year. She led the Vikings in runs scored with 27 as a junior and 30 as a senior, was second in hits this season with 26 and third her junior year with 22, led the team in round trippers with four her junior year and was second in RBIs that year with 19. From her right field position, Buchanan had a perfect fielding percentage her junior year with 13 putouts and one assist, and fielded .867 from the hot corner this year with 25 putouts and 40 assists. She had several games where she fielded the ball and threw out the runner for all three outs in the inning. Buchanan pitched one complete game as a senior and earned a win 21-14 over Spring Valley, throwing a 12 hitter with five strikeouts and seven walks. She was named Second Team All Conference as a junior and also as a senior.

“Kori was one of the most improved players on the team in my years of coaching,” former coach Doucette said. “It was great to see her develop from a raw athlete to one of the area’s best players. She had a great arm and hit with power and was definitely one of the school’s leaders in many offensive categories.”

Wait patrolled centerfield much like the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez, chasing down fly balls to the fence and racing in to snare those flares just out of the infielders’ reach. She led the Vikings in fielding percentage her sophomore year at .950 and was second both her junior year (.966) and senior year (.929). She totaled 97 putouts with 36 of them this year. Offensively, Wait had a career batting average of .349 including a .389 average her sophomore season. In that year she was first on the team in runs scored with 19, tied for first in hits with 21 and led the Vikings in triples with four. She also led the team in stolen bases her junior year with 14. Wait’s totals are 94 hits with 12 doubles, six three baggers and three home runs, 93 runs scored and 57 RBIs. She also swiped 34 bases and was selected honorable mention All Conference her sophomore, junior and senior years.

“Karina developed into one of the best outfielders we have had over the years,” Doucette said. “She had great range and covered a lot of ground. She was very athletic and a streaky hitter at times, but was powerful and fast.”

Ottinger certainly took her lumps behind the plate as all catchers do but she managed to stay healthy and start in all 79 games over her four year career. As a senior she gunned down 17 of 42 runners who attempted to steal second base for a .404 percentage. She was never afraid to sacrifice her body as she made several diving catches on pop ups in foul ground and pounced on bunt attempts to throw runners out. Watching all those pitches from behind the plate obviously helped her as she led the team in drawing walks with 13 her junior year and tied for first with 12 this year. She increased her batting average from .188 as a freshman to .339 as a senior and totaled 41 runs scored, 62 hits with eight doubles, one triple and a pair of taters and had seven stolen bases.

“Courtney was very coachable and really developed into a great catcher over her four years,” Doucette said. “She never missed a game and was a solid hitter and occasionally hit with power.”

The Vikings reached the regional championship game in their freshmen and sophomore seasons, losing to their rival Elk Mound both times, then lost to Bloomer in the first round of regionals their junior year under Doucette. Pepin-Alma won the conference all three of those years.

“All three of these girls helped Colfax develop a strong softball program and were instrumental in allowing us to be competitive against good teams,” he concluded.

Dworak showed some potential but just arrived on the team a little too late in her career, according to first year coach Rich Meredith. She played one game in the outfield for the Vikings and knocked out a single in three at bats and drew a walk.

“Natalie was a positive influence for the young players and gave it her all when she played,” Meredith said. “All of our seniors were great teammates for each other and were definitely leaders. We had several freshmen starting this year and finished  9-11 but our underclassmen certainly learned from these seniors what it takes to excel at the varsity level,” he added.