BY DOUG WOLTER
EDGERTON -- Reportedly, the Edgerton/Southwest Christian girls fast-pitch softball team will be competitive this year.
And so will the team from Pipestone Area.
“Competitive” is in some cases a relative term. It can mean a team will be comparable to other teams in its region. In the case of the Flying Dutchmen and the Arrows, however, the term probably means they’ll be gunning one more time for state tournament trips.
The Dutchmen, coached by Andrew Fleischman, participated in yet another state Class A tourney in 2018, finishing in second place. The Arrows, coached by Troy Bouman, once again performed in the Class AA tournament, placing third.
Both teams have a lot of talent returning for 2019.
Edgerton/Southwest Christian -- which played in an eighth-straight section championship last spring -- returns three players from the state Class A All-Tournament Team: pitcher Sierra Van Dyke, pitcher-third baseman Gabby Buckridge and outfielder Jessa Nibbelink. Van Dyke earned All-Red Rock Conference status last year, as did returning teammates Hannah Nerem (first base) and Jazzy Prins (shortstop). Besides that, the return of second baseman Liz Prins (an honorable mention All-Red Rock player last year) gives the team an infield that’s hard to beat.
Pitching will be ably handled by veterans Buckridge, a junior, and Van Dyke, a senior. They’re working on new pitches in practice, said Fleischman, whose own daughter Addison also pitches (though she’ll be mostly B squad this spring).
“I don’t know if it’s the best pitching we’ve had. But it’s the best depth that we’ve had one through three,” said the coach.
Offense is less than a certainty at this point. Fleischman believes hitters 1-4 will be dangerous, but he notes a little inexperience on the back end.
Overall? “I think we’ll be solid. It’ll be a tough conference. Mountain Lake and Murray County Central are obviously very good teams,” he said.
In Pipestone, the Arrows aren’t rebuilding this spring, they’re refocusing. That’s not to say Bouman isn’t just a little bit cautious.
“I think our goals are always high,” he said. “But when you lose two players like Shelby Bloemendaal at pitcher and Logan Winter behind the plate, those are very big holes to fill.”
Bloemendaal, the Arrows’ pitching ace, has graduated along with her battery mate, Winter, joining Morgyn Carlson as three All-Big South Conference Arrows no longer with the team.
With Bloemendaal and Winter working their magic, the Arrows were always tough. They figure to remain pretty tough, anyway, this spring with the return of several other key performers.
One of those is all-conference shortstop Mandi Miller, a clutch hitter at the plate who owns the school record for triples in a season. Also back is all-conference third baseman Paige Ahrendt.
April Haupert (second base) adds to team depth along with veteran outfielders Carmen Skyberg, Kaitlyn Draper and Mallary Remund.
Senior pitcher Adrianna Johnson, who took but one loss last year, returns after pitching the back ends of many doubleheaders in 2018. Mostly a location pitcher, she is described by Bouman as “deceptively quick.”
Sophomore Jessa Reinhert and junior Erin Lueck can also pitch.
Success this season may depend on defense, said Bouman, because the Arrows won’t be able to count on 10 or 12 strikeouts a game like last year.
“Each year we know we gotta go out and work hard,” he said. “It’s not getting any easier. The teams around us are getting stronger.”