Softball: Young Wingers hoping for growth throughout season
Last year, the Red Wing softball team relied on four seniors to produce nearly half of its runs while breaking in a group of younger players.
This year, head coach Jon Bohmbach will have three seniors and a junior set to lead. But three sophomores, six freshmen and an eighth-grader will be leaned on more than any time in Bohmbach's tenure.
“We've had really good practices, probably better than I expected,” Bohmbach said. “We're very young, but the seniors from last year have passed the baton.”
Haley Ehlers and Justine Swenning will take over behind the plate and in the pitching circle, respectively. Both have a year of varsity and are just finishing their ninth-grade year.
“Defense is so important,” Bohmbach said. “Walks and errors will kill you in softball. To have them, even though they're just (freshmen), I have confidence in them in handling those positions. They're just young. That's the negative and the positive.”
The defense behind Swenning might change by the game. Bohmbach said he has a roster that is flexible in positions, with most girls capable of playing multiple spots in both the infield and the outfield.
Seniors Natalie Boxrud, Grace Pagel and Liz Illg, along with junior Marissa Kelly, will be joined by sophomores Haddie Furlong and Delayne Fox. Freshmen Meg Grove and Hannah Huppert, and eighth-grader Abby Boxrud, will also be needed.
Where all of those girls end up might not be decided until late in the season.
“We're going to be tweaking the lineup all the time,” Bohmbach said. “It's a luxury we've never really had before. We're moving the chess pieces to see (find) the right fit. And we'll probably be doing that all season.”
Offensively, the Wingers will have to replace McKenzie Cota, Molly Goranson, Jenna Peterson and Becca Swenning. Combined, that's 52 RBI that graduated along with 45 of the team's 99 runs scored from 2016. It was the kind of success that landed two Red Wing players on the Big Nine All-Conference list, in Cota and Peterson, and vaulted Cota to the Republican Eagle's All-Area team.
But before the Wingers open the season on Monday against Lake City, Bohmbach got to see his team in action in an eight-team scrimmage on Friday. It's something he's wanted for a long time.
“I've always wanted a scrimmage before our first game because it gets rid of the jitters. We learn,” Bohmbach said.