Maple Grove senior Cayli Sadler saw firsthand the impact an elite pitcher can have on a team's success.
A shortstop when the Crimson last reached the state tournament in 2010, Sadler watched then- senior pitcher Shanna Sticka strike out scores of batters and fuel Maple Grove's success.
Two years later, Sadler is reprising Sticka's role as the Crimson's pitching catalyst. She's led the No. 6-ranked Crimson to a 10-1 start this season, including a 4-3 upset against No. 1 Bloomington Jefferson on May 5.
Sadler hopes to overtake Sticka in the program's record books while leading the team to victories. Sticka posted 264 strikeouts as a senior. Sadler, a righthanded pitcher, has 133 strikeouts so far this season and is on pace to better Sticka's mark.
She already set two program records this season, striking out 18 batters in a game against Andover and striking out 10 consecutive batters against Armstrong.
Through 11 games, Sadler is 10-1 with a 0.72 ERA, eight walks and four shutouts. She contributes from the plate with a .405 batting average and seven RBI.
Sadler, who will play at Minne-sota Duluth next season, spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her pitching arsenal, unfinished business and what she hopes the Crimson will accomplish.
Q Your softball résumé says you can throw a fastball, drop ball, curveball, rise ball and changeup. Are all five working for you again this season?
A I've been using all of them but I have been throwing my rise and curve a lot more this year than I have in the past. They are working better. And since the hitters are getting better, I've been working on those movement pitches.
Q Do you feel like you bring a different presence to games as a senior?
A I definitely feel more confident out there. I actually wasn't expecting to be doing as well as I am. I mean, I'm happy with it but I'm taking it game by game.
Q Your only loss so far was to rival Park Center but you won the next three games and allowed only one total run. Talk about the way the team bounced back.
A We knew going into the season that Park Center would be our biggest rival so that loss was so hard. But the heartache of the loss made us work that much harder. In practice earlier this season we weren't as focused. Now we're staying focused. We know we can get to the level we want to be at in the end.
Q You also took a tough loss in the first round of the section playoffs last year. What is this team's mission?
A We definitely want to make it to state. I have a lot of hope for this team making it far this season. We've been doing really well and each game I can tell we're improving. I can tell we are a team now and our individual skills are improved.
Q What is your role in helping this team achieve its potential? Do you stand up and say anything or do you just go out and lead by example?
A It's a little of both. As one of the captains I try to play a role in getting the team focused and let everyone know we can have fun but we need to work hard. During games, I go out and do my thing.