She was regarded as the most lethal pitcher in the West Central Conference and beyond, she had solidified a spot on a Division III roster, and the Albany softball team had just completed its final practice before it took off for its second straight trip to the state tournament.
It’s hard to imagine Karli Persson felt better about the game of softball up to that point.
“I don’t think so,” said Persson, a senior. “The excitement to come this far as a team, I don’t think it gets any better than this.”
Albany fell, 2-1, in their Class 2A quarterfinal against Maple River and finished sixth with a 2-1 win against Kasson-Mantorville and an 8-5 loss to Mound Westonka in the consolation final.
Persson finished the tournament with 24 strikeouts and just three walks and had three hits and an RBI, offensively.
Persson had a school-record 189 strikeouts on the season going into the state tournament with just 24 walks issued, a 1.54 earned run average and an 18-1 record. The two-time all-state selection is the 2012 Times all-area softball Player of the Year.
“Nobody works harder than Karli,” said Albany coach Vance Ressler, who’s coached the Huskies to two state appearances in his three years at the helm.
“She pitches year-round, whether she’s working with her dad or with pitching coaches down in the Cities. She’s put in the time to get to where she is right now.”
Persson split time at pitcher as a sophomore and became the full-time pitcher last season when she broke Albany’s single-season strikeout record, which she broke again this year.
The accolades are stacking up for Persson. She’s been named to the All-WCC North and all-area teams each season since she was a sophomore, and was all-section the last two years and made second-team all-state in Class 2A as a junior.
Persson is most proud of the achievement of breaking Albany’s career strikeouts record this season.
“Breaking the record was just really cool,” Persson said. “I never thought I’d ever break a record. It never crossed my mind, but later on, it’s something I can show my kids that I broke the strikeouts record here.”
This season, Persson ran away with the WCC North Player of the Year award, made the first-team all-state cut and will join the Senior All-Star Series.
Honors and awards have provided any proof to any outsiders how good Persson is. Opposing coaches have seen Persson’s dominance first-hand.
“I would love to have her on my team” said Little Falls coach Ron Hinnenkamp, whose team lost once to Albany in the regular season and twice in the Section 6-2A playoffs.
“She moves the ball around the strike zone and attacks the batter with a variety of pitches. She forces batters to hit her pitches rather than the other way around.”
Ressler said Persson’s pitches have improved more and more each season. Persson’s rise ball has become more effective this season, in addition to strong fastballs and change ups.
“Her strikeout-to-walk ratio is just unbelievable,” Ressler said. “I have absolute faith that she’s going to be successful at the next level and her work ethic is going to get her there.”
When the summer concludes and Persson tosses her last pitch at the high school level, she’ll attend Bethel University in Arden Hills and play for the Royals in 2013.
That gives her the opportunity to play against former teammate Emma Zierden, a 2011 Albany graduate and an infielder for Bethel’s MIAC opponent, St. Benedict.
“I’m really excited about playing Emma because I know how good of a player she is,” said Persson, who said. “It’s really fun to play against friends. It makes the game that much more fun.”