Veteran Knights softball embracing conference switch

Over the past few years the Irondale High School fastpitch softball team was a contender each season in its conference, the now-defunct North Suburban. The Knights are looking to continue to be a factor this spring, but they will be doing so in a new, tough league.

With the dissolution of the North Suburban, Irondale is now a member of the Northwest Suburban Conference, a 14-team league that features some teams that routinely contend for not only the conference title, but for state championships.

Aside from Spring Lake Park and Totino-Grace, which were also in the North Suburban Conference, the teams in the Northwest Suburban Conference are a bit of a mystery to Irondale, but that doesn't bother Irondale head coach Heather Hyatt.

"I don't know much about the other teams in our conference, and I like it that way," said Hyatt, who is in her third year as head coach and eighth with the program. "I want us to play every game at the same high level no matter who we are playing. We are working on being competitive with the teams, and we look forward to being a part of this conference."

Embracing competition is a concept that the coaches have been trying to get the team to buy into more this season.

"One of our weaknesses that we are working on is raising our competitive level," Hyatt said. "We do challenges and compete in every practice, so we are continuously working on that."

Irondale has plenty of veteran players who can also help the younger team members with that.

"One of the main strengths that we possess as a team is the fact that they are more of a veteran team," Hyatt noted. "We have six seniors who have some great leadership."

That senior class is led by Maggie Schley and Amy Irving, who have multiple years of varsity experience. Schley is the Knights' starting pitcher and is coming back off a solid junior season in which she went 15-5 with 95 strikeouts and a 1.20 earned-run average. Schley also gets it done at the plate as evidenced by her .551 batting average and 14 extra-base hits last year.

Irving also put up impressive numbers with the bat last year as she hit .471 with 26 runs batted in.

Irondale got the season off to a nice start with a pair of victories last week. The Knights beat Centennial 3-2 on April 8 and followed that up with a 3-2 win over Hopkins on April 10. A game against Duluth Denfeld was postponed due to weather.

The Knights have four games on the docket this week, including a trip to last year's Class AAA state runner-up Maple Grove on Wednesday. They also visit Minneapolis South on Friday. Elk River, the 2013 Class AAA state champion, paid a visit on Monday and Duluth Denfeld visited on Tuesday, past the deadline for this edition of the Bulletin.

Brian Meyers can be reached at or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

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