Lakeview softball and Lyndsey Peterson. For area softball fans who can't imagine one without the other, there's a good reason.
There was no Lakeview softball before Lyndsey
During her six seasons on the team, the program's first six years of existence, Peterson blossomed into one of the Marshall area's stingiest pitchers and most potent hitters. It all culminated with her sterling senior season in 2012 in which Peterson helped lift the Lakers to new heights, advancing one win away from playing for the Section 3A championship while doubling the team's previous best single-season win total with a 14-8 record.
From starting for the Lakers her seventh-grade year when her squad had to play a junior varsity schedule, to taking Lakeview further into the postseason than any other Marshall-area team in 2012, Peterson, this year's Independent Softball Player of the Year, has served as a cornerstone player as Lakeview has strived to turn itself into a
"The program, in a sense, was pretty much built around Lyndsey," Lakeview head coach Tony Johnson said. "If you have a quality pitcher like that, even at that age of seventh or eighth grade, you can fill in quite a few girls around her as time goes on.
"She meant a lot to the program. She's huge. In a sense, she's kept the program going. She's going to be irreplaceable."
Whether looking at her gaudy senior statistics (171 strikeouts to just 18 walks, an area-best 2.18 ERA, a .948 slugging percentage) or having seen her dominate games with her arm and her bat, it would still be difficult to grasp the impact Peterson has had on Lakeview softball. In fact, without Peterson, there may have been no Lakeview softball.
Peterson spent her early years in Oklahoma, home of the National Softball Hall of Fame and the Amateur Softball Association headquarters. She began playing fast-pitch softball in third grade and joined a traveling team. When her family moved to Minnesota before her sixth-grade year, Peterson was hit with a harsh new reality - her new school didn't have a softball team.
"I was like, 'Oh no, what am I going to do?'" Peterson said. "I really love softball, so I thought about going to Marshall but I was like, 'No, I like Lakeview.' Then my mom (Peggy) went in and talked to them and was like, 'Yeah, softball would be awesome.' So I was excited (when school administrators decided to start a softball program)."
The first five years went how one would expect for a program building from the ground up. The Lakers never won more than seven games in a season, and they didn't have a single playoff win to their name. But during that time, they were gaining experience at the plate and in the field, and Peterson could sense something special coming for her senior year.
"I knew we had a lot of potential to do well," she said. "I love my team, so we just wanted to have fun and push ourselves to keep improving day by day, practice by practice. We knew we could make it further in playoffs than we ever have, so we were pretty pumped."
The potential came through from the start. In Game 1 of the season, the Lakers thumped defending Section 2A champion Martin County West 10-1. Peterson struck out 11 batters and gave up just three hits while recording a single, double, triple and three RBIs at the plate.
Lakeview was a bit up and down over its next several games and was sitting at 4-5 before sweeping Russell-Tyler-Ruthton heading into a pair of key doubleheaders against MACCRAY and Dawson-Boyd, two strong teams in the Camden Conference.
By the end of the two series, the rest of the conference got the message. The Lakers were for real. Lakeview outscored the Wolverines and Blackjacks a combined 29-9, with Peterson allowing three or fewer runs in each game.
"I think that was a huge week for us," Peterson said. "Going into that MACCRAY game we were like, 'You know, if we can beat this team - cause they're such a great team - if we can sweep this team, then that's awesome and we are an awesome team.' I think we just needed that one big win to get our confidence in ourselves, and I think that helped a lot."
Peterson had 23 strikeouts in the two wins against Dawson-Boyd. Throughout the season, the senior made double-digit strikeout games look routine. She said she added a drop ball and a screwball to her arsenal this season, which helped her increase her strikeout total by nearly 100 from 2011 when she split time between pitching and playing shortstop.
She was the best pitcher in the area this season, but Peterson said it's swinging the bat that she likes most of all. She said her father or brothers would take her to the softball field to work on her hitting or pitching whenever she wanted. Her power numbers benefited greatly, as she piled up seven home runs, eight doubles and three triples.
Johnson said one of the things that was most impressive about Peterson's hitting numbers this season was that she was able to increase her production even though most teams on the schedule had faced her time and time again over the years.
"Like, we played KMS three times this year, so they know what pitches not to throw her, obviously," Johnson said. "You have to try and make contact with pitches you wouldn't normally swing at, and she got pretty good at that. We worked with her a lot on taking the ball the other way."
Peterson and the Lakers entered the Section 3A-South playoffs confident, but were well aware of a tough road ahead with Murray County Central in the first round and a potential matchup with top seed Wabasso in the second round. Lakeview got past MCC 7-5, with Peterson going 2-for-4 with a home run, a double and two runs scored. That set up a meeting with the Rabbits, where Lakeview had to exorcise some demons.
"We'd played Wabasso probably four of the last five years in the playoffs and they had always beaten us," Johnson said. "That was always a thing for (Peterson) was that she wanted to beat Wabasso one time.
"She really took it upon herself to get the girls fired up and ready to go and she threw really well."
Peterson limited Wabasso to six hits in a 4-2 victory. The Rabbits' two runs tied their lowest offensive output of the season.
Advancing to the final four of the section tournament, Lakeview dispatched of Dawson-Boyd 7-1 and found itself in a battle with unbeaten Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg for a spot in the championship. Peterson was again incredible on the mound, holding KMS to just one run on five hits. It was the fewest runs the Fighting Saints had scored all season, but the Lakers' offense couldn't break through against KMS pitcher Erin Haglund, getting just one hit in a 1-0 loss.
Lakeview saw its season come to an end in a 8-2 loss to Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian in a losers' bracket game. Although she fell just short of playing for a section title, Peterson said the Lakers made huge strides in proving they're a program to be taken seriously.
"I was just really excited," said Peterson, who will play softball at Bemidji State next season. "Us three seniors, me, Sarah (Berg) and Angela (Timm), we're like, 'Alright, let's show them we can be a good team.' Playoffs showed that. I mean, we kept KMS to one run. That's probably the highlight of our whole season.
"I think (the younger players) all see now that if you put the work into it, you can be an awesome team."