The Eagles return quite a bit of experience from a team that finished 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the Packerland Conference and won a regional title before falling to Brillion in the sectional semifinal.
“We return a lot of experience all over the field,” Coach Courtney Renard said. “We have very good team speed and have some power bats in the lineup. Our defense last season was very good, and we expect it to be even better this upcoming year.”
The Eagles return seven players who hit .340 or better last season. Jackie Atkins, Lexy Wery and Kylie Neinas are a trio of returnees who hit .444, .421 and .400, respectively. Teyha Bertrand (.377), Jessica Jacobson (.364), Grace LeGrave (.348) and Kendi Dantoin (.340) round out the list of top returning hitters.
Renard said she is counting on newcomers Gretchen Mueller, Alexis Jandrin, Regan Norton, Natalie Jandrin and Melanie Waters to provide depth.
Wery and LeGrave will provide a potent combination on the mound. Wery was 11-1 with a 0.76 ERA and 76 strikeouts; LeGrave was 7-2 with a 1.26 ERA and 38 strikeouts.
“Expectations are very high,” Renard said. “We have to be able to remain loose and not feel any extra pressure. If we play the way we know we can play, we will have a very successful season.”
First-year coach Brooke Lauritzen must find replacements for five starters lost to graduation on a team that finished 3-11 overall and 2-6 in the Packerland Conference.
Sophomore Grace Brauer returns as the top hitter, with a .341 average in 2018. Senior Amber Roalkvan and junor Allison Daubner both hit .250, and Ashley Ellefson and Karley Schram hit .222 and .212, respectively. Roalkvan, Ellefson and Schram turned in fielding percentages of .968, .933 and .865, respectively.
Lauritzen said freshmen Samantha Different and Kristen Daubner, along with sophomore Victoria Blucher, are the Pioneers’ top newcomers. Allison Daubner is the top returning pitcher after thowing just 15 innings last season.
“Our strength is great senior leadership,” Lauritzen said. “We lost five starting seniors after last season, so this year we’re really working on adjusting many girls to starting positions and getting them confident and comfortable on the field.”
The Clippers, who were 5-10 overall and 2-7 in the Packerland Conference last season, return three players who hit better than .300.
Junior catcher Koko Hartzell returns after hitting .393 last season; senior center fielder Gracee Abeyta hit .344; and junior left fielder Katie Frank hit .333, including three home runs. Other returnees are junior Sarah Bridenhagen at third base, senior Alexis McCarthy in right field and junior Melissa Moxon at first base.
Newcomers Erin Haese, Bree Rivera and Autumn Hacht will provide depth, and Haese and Rivera will split time pitching.
“We will need to be a more consistent defensive and offensive team to have success,” said coach Jim Benesh. “We have potential to be a good team. We lack experience with our pitchers. How quick they come around will be one of our keys.”
Coach Nick Bastian has a challenge that other local coaches don’t.
“We are trying to build a team with two districts, [and] when one school has to travel via ferry, [it] isn’t easy,” said Bastian, whose team finished 3-13 overall and 1-7 in the Packerland Conference in 2018. “But the girls do a great job of staying committed to the team and their academics.”
He said the Vikings will count on seniors Payton Pluff and Gabby Lettie and sophomore pitcher Karlee Kita.
“We need to get our young players more experience,” Bastian said. “We have two seniors, two juniors, nine sophomores and five freshmen.”