Rebels look to repeat as RRC softball champs
SLAYTON -- With a pair of top-notch pitchers back, the Murray County Central Rebels will strive to defend their Red Rock Conference fast-pitch softball title and get back to the Section 3A title game.
Head coach James Wajer said his team will be inexperienced at some positions, as five-year starters Laura Beers and Janeane Robinson, along with Annette Magnus, Brooke Manderscheid, Cortney Platt, Caitlyn Petersen and Allison Carlson, graduated last spring.
But with senior Maddy Robinson (9-2, 1.94 ERA) and junior Becky Blomendaal (7-2, 1.21 ERA) back to anchor the pitching, MCC (9-1 in the conference, 16-4 overall last year) hopes to continue to perform at a high level.
Senior Dani Onken (center field), junior Kate Robinson (shortstop) and freshman Elissa Reinsma (left field) were also key contributors for the Rebels a season ago -- each batting over .300 and driving in nine-plus runs.
Among the other players looking to help the Rebels this season are senior Lydia Mesner (second base), juniors Tara Onken (third base), Missy Saner (first base/third base) and Steph Ahlschlager (outfield), sophomores Alyssa Claar (catcher/first base), Megan Counter (outfield), Miranda Robinson (infield) and Meghan Hartle (infield), and freshman Abby VanMeveran (catcher).
Senior infielder Kelly Shaner batted .422 with 13 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs a year ago, and is one of five experienced players returning for the Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove Falcons this season.
The Falcons lose Ashley Neperman, Denise Tietz, Danielle Trapp, Sarah Olson and Brenna Highby from last year's 11-10 team, which finished second in the Red Rock Conference with an 8-2 league mark.
Outfielder Jenny Hoffman (.333 average, seven RBIs last year) is the team's only other senior and will be starting for the third season.
Juniors Audra Schmidt (9-7, 3.63 ERA and 137 strikeouts) and Shannon Altermatt return with experience at pitcher and shortstop, respectively, and junior infielder Emily Neperman (.290 average, 11 RBIs) will see more playing time this year.
Head coach Derek Stevenson is also looking forward to the contributions from sophomores Steph Maras (infielder), Nichole Schroeder (infielder), Jenna Smith (outfielder) and Steph Pankonin (infielder).
Adrian Area Dragons
After winning a program-record 11 games a season ago, the Adrian Area Dragons will look to continue improving with most of their players returning.
Natalie Lynn, Courtney Thier and Jessica Nelson were the seniors on last year's team, which won a pair of games in the Section 3A tournament for the club's first-ever post-season victories and was 11-13 overall (5-5 in the Red Rock Conference).
Junior Sam Lynn, a three-year starter, and freshman Karli Meyer were both selected to the All-Conference team last season. Lynn will again play shortstop, while Meyer is expected to do the bulk of the pitching.
Senior catcher Melissa Weidert was an All-Conference Honorable Mention selection last year, while seniors Briana Neibuhr and Brooke Kramer also return with experience and are projected to play on the right side of the infield at first base and second base, respectively.
Junior Kaitlin Banck is one of four newcomers who will fill out the lineup, as the Dragons have just nine players on their roster. Banck will play third base.
Junior Mary Loosbrock and sophomores Darian Herman and Courtney Dreesen will handle the three outfield positions.
Dennis Stade takes over as the new head coach for the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Wolverines, who were 4-6 in the Red Rock Conference and 10-15 overall a year ago.
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Wolverines, but there are some veterans back that look to lead the team this spring.
Senior Courtney Anderson looks to be the team's top pitcher, and junior catcher Megan Svalland brings leadership behind the plate.
Senior Kelly Hempeck will play first base after three years of starting in right field, and several other players are competing for playing time at the other infield spots and all three outfield positions.
Edgerton Flying Dutchmen
Senior catcher Dulci Boyum and junior pitcher Katie Hadler are experienced battery-mates, and will look to lead a young Edgerton Flying Dutchmen squad this spring.
Boyum will be entering her fourth year as the team's backstop and was an All-Conference performer last year, while this is Hadler's third year as the team's ace hurler and she was selected to All-Conference Honorable Mention team last year.
Juniors Sammi Vanden Bosch and Ingrid Jasper will play center field and first base, respectively, for Edgerton (2-8, 11-13 last year), which lost Alexa Vanden Bosch and Chelsey Bouw to graduation and will rely on several sophomores to contribute this year.
Sophomores Kelsey Wolthuizen (third base), Hailey Van Kley (shortstop) and Macy Butson (second base) will round out the infield, while classmates Alyson Drooger (left field) and Emily Sluis (right field) are the projected corner outfielders.
With seven letterwinners returning, the Southwestern United Wildcats are looking to improve upon last year's 2-17 record (2-8 in the Red Rock Conference).
However, three-time team MVP and two-time all-state selection Kelli Correll, along with Chelsey Knutson and Kris Beyer graduated off that team, and sophomore pitcher/third baseman Katherine Kazemba has moved out of the school district.
Sarah Schmitz is one of three experienced seniors back for the Wildcats, as she earned All-Conference Honorable Mention honors as the team's catcher last year. She will move to shortstop this spring.
Seniors Kasey McNab (pitcher/third base) and Elly Schmitz (first base) are also returning starters, as are juniors April Wallace and Anna Obermoller. Wallace will take over the primary catching duties, while Obermoller is the team's leader in the outfield.
Sophomores Roshay Reimers (outfield) and Karen Schmitz (first base/outfield) are also returning letterwinners.
Head coach Les Knutson is also seeking contributions from senior Beth Moshier (infield), freshman Ceilia Schmitz (infield) and eighth-graders Maddie Rasche (infield) and Christine Kazemba (pitcher/infield).
Camden Conference T-M-B Panthers
With no juniors on the roster, the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers will rely on several sophomores and freshmen to contribute to the team's success.
Jackie Haecherl, Becka Zens, Cassie Miller and Ashley Kirk were the seniors on last year's 12-10 team that finished as the Camden Conference runner-up.
This year's group of seniors includes Lisa Bauer, Mallory Fultz, Brit Carlson, Lindsey Daniels and Becki Towne.
Bauer and Daniels will split time at pitcher and second base, Fultz (first base) and Carlson (third base) will play the corner infield positions, and Towne holds down a spot in the outfield.
Head coach Paul Skoglund said Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg is the likely favorite to win the Camden Conference title, but hopes his team can stay in the hunt throughout the season.
T-M-B drops down a class this spring, as the Panthers will move from Section 3AA to Section 3A after the regular season is complete