As an 11-year-old, Stephanie Borndale stood scared and timid in the back corner of the batter's box. Rarely did she swing as the ball crossed the plate. She just didn't want to get hit.

In short, she wasn't much of a threat.

"I was so scared before. I don't think I swung the bat five times my first two years," she laughed. "I would always watch the ball and hope to get walked so I could just run."

Now, entering her senior season at Hill-Murray, Borndale stands at the plate as one of the state's elite power hitters -- fearless, dangerous and ready to lead a senior-laden squad into the spring spotlight.

She still stands at the back corner of the box.

"But now I have confidence," said Borndale, who will play softball at Hamline next year. "I kind of just had a realization that you're probably not going to make an impact in the lineup if you never take the bat off your shoulder."

Borndale hit better than .400 the past two seasons, has been named all-conference the past three seasons and holds captain honors for the second consecutive year under coach Colleen Conway.

Just listening to Conway roll through the lineup is enough to make an opposing pitcher cringe.

Two lefthanded slappers, Teona Zepeda, who will play for Concordia (St. Paul), and sophomore Nicole Thompson, sit at the top of the order. They're naturally speedy and have a good teacher. Conway, who played for the Gophers, was converted into a slap hitter on her first day of college -- something she never had done before.

"I had to learn it all from baby steps," said Conway, a second-year head coach and Hill-Murray alum. "Some girls are taught that very early and I had to learn it from scratch. They're both learning the trick of the trade from me -- and they're both very, very good at it."

Sydney Fabian, a Gophers recruit, hits in the No. 3 slot. She is a three-time all-conference and two-time all-state honoree. Borndale is in the cleanup spot.

There are six potential college players in the Pioneers' top six slots. They graduated one player last year and will carry 11 seniors. Fabian and Lindsey Klein split time on the mound last year. The players have confidence in both.

But as usual, fellow power North St. Paul will pose a tough challenge. Both teams seem to toss the Classic Suburban Conference title back and forth, but North St. Paul has had the upper hand in section play.

"We've always been one hit away or one out away -- or one this or one that -- we just always come up a little bit short to them," Conway said. "That's kind of our biggest issue: Getting past North St. Paul in the sections."

With a roster filled with seniors and collegiate talent, the girls believe that luck could change this spring.

"It's in everyone's minds," Borndale said. "We're after them. We want to be the team that in the paper the next day, it says that we beat them."