CASSELTON, N.D. — Aubree Lindstrom had to wait a long time for her chance to shine. Now that it’s finally her turn, she is seizing the opportunity.
Although her coach said she would have been good enough to start for most teams as an underclassman, the senior Central Cass pitcher was stuck behind another standout pitcher as a freshman and sophomore. She never complained, she just kept working.
Lindstrom was finally set to get her chance to take on a bigger role with the varsity team last season as a junior, but the high school season was canceled. She had to wait another year.
“It was a pretty long wait,” Lindstrom said. “But watching Lexi (Buhr) just made me work harder. I worked hard in the offseason to get better. I got a few opportunities as a sophomore to pitch and I excelled. I think they saw that and they knew that I would be ready. I’m glad that I’m the go-to pitcher.”
Squirrels coach Scott Kost said there were definitely signs of what they had in Lindstrom before this season. She got a lot of innings with the junior varsity team as an underclassman, and always impressed in her opportunities to take the rubber on the varsity level. He saw glimpses of what she would become last year during the summer season.
“When she got her opportunities, she came out and grabbed onto them,” Kost said. “Now this year, she has seized the opportunity. We’ve got a couple of other good pitchers on our varsity and she has seized the opportunity. And now she has that mentality that, ‘I’ve paid my dues and now it’s my turn.’”
Lindstrom is taking her turn and making the most of it. The senior pitcher has been dominant all season, and has been at her best in her team’s biggest games. Last weekend, the Squirrels, ranked No. 1 in the latest Class B coaches poll, defeated Class A No. 1 ranked Dickinson 3-1 on Friday and then defeated then-Class B No. 2 Des-Lacs Burlington 12-1 on Saturday.
Lindstrom walked a girl and gave up a run early against Dickinson, but buckled down after that to keep the Midgets off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
“I talked to the kids afterwards,” Kost said. “And I specifically pointed out Aubree and said, ‘That is the best game I’ve ever seen you pitch. I’ve seen you pitch a lot of good games, but that is the best one I’ve seen you pitch.’”
It was no surprise at all to Lindstrom that she had her best performance in perhaps her team’s toughest test to that point in the season. She relishes high-pressure situations.
“I feel like I tend to do better in high-pressure situations, like I know I need to do this,” Lindstrom said. “I feel like I’m really focused then. I perform better. I like keeping the pace of the game and how our team likes to play instead of playing to somebody else’s tempo and scheme.”
Her coach agrees.
“She really thrives on that,” Kost said. “It seems like the better the competition is, the better she performs. Even if she’s nicked up a little bit, she just wants to keep participating and keep performing. That is probably the reason that she is as good as she is right now, that she is a competitor.”
That never-say-die attitude rubs off on her teammates. The senior pitcher sets a tone and lifts the play of everybody around her.
Kost said he wasn’t sure how Lindstrom and this year’s seniors would handle their new leadership roles this season. They went straight from sophomores to seniors without the benefit of having a junior season to gain some experience leading a team. But Lindstrom was a natural. She immediately took over the role and mentored her younger teammates.
“I told Aubree, ‘If you ever decide to go into coaching, you have some natural coaching abilities,’” Kost said. “She does a really good job of being a good role model and a good kid. She’s not a, ‘Hey, I’m a senior here and I deserve special treatment.’ She’s not like that at all. She doesn’t expect to be treated any differently than any other player on our team. She’s got a level of humility and caring about other people that are a part of this program. I think that’s what makes a good leader. You don’t make it about you, you make it about the others.”
Lindstrom’s success had come thanks in large part to the work she does outside of the season to improve. This winter she took part in a 12-week training camp with her summer team. At each session, she’d do an hour of pitching and an hour of hitting. She estimates each pitching session would consist of 100 to 150 pitches. All of those offseason pitches built up her endurance so now her arm doesn’t wear out.
“I came into the season not having to really take care of my arm,” Lindstrom said. “My arm is all the way there and I’m never sore anymore, which is good. I think it builds up a lot of endurance. Last week, I pitched every game, I think, and I’m good.”
Lindstrom has a fastball, changeup and rise ball. She said her velocity tops out somewhere from 58 to 61 miles per hour. She worked a lot on her rise ball this offseason and is more confident going to the pitch.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way with my rise ball,” Lindstrom said. “A lot of pitchers around here, they do have a rise ball, but they maybe don’t throw it as much. I throw it a lot now.”
Both Lindstrom and Kost feel good about where the Squirrels are heading down the home stretch of the regular season, but this week is full of more big tests. Central Cass suffered its first loss of the season on Tuesday, falling by a run to No. 2 Thompson 7-6. The Squirrels play Grafton on Thursday, and are slated to face Class A Fargo Davies on Friday and Class A No. 3 West Fargo in a Saturday doubleheader.
“I feel good about this stretch that we’re going to get this week,” Kost said. “We’re going to get to see some really good competition. Sometimes when you win, you can get complacent. I don’t see any of that with this team. We set a goal at the beginning of the year to compete for a state championship. We’ve got ourselves in a position to do that. We’ve still got some work to do and some of that will happen this week.”