After three seasons with Morgan Oppor on the mound and two with Mary Marx behind the plate, it’s time for the Iola-Scandinavia softball team to move on.
Both players helped the Thunderbirds finish one win short of a trip to state last season, as I-S fell to eventual Division 3 runner-up Stevens Point Pacelli 4-0 in a sectional final.
However, a handful of players are back for a team that finished tied for fourth in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference with a 7-7 record.
“We were really fortunate to have had Morgan as our starting pitcher for the past three years and Mary as our starting catcher for the past two years,” coach Tom Anderson said. “It is time to move on and see who will step up and compete for those two positions. We hope junior pitcher Payton Erickson is ready and up to the challenge to be our No. 1 pitcher. Our strength should come from our five returning starters from last season. We also have a large group of juniors, sophomores and freshmen working hard to earn varsity playing time.”
Returning players from last year’s 14-11 team include seniors Amanda Aanstad (left field), Elle Maus (second base), Whitney Tomczak (shortstop), Kiara Boutwell (center field) and Erickson (right field).
“We have several other players battling for the remaining varsity positions, including juniors Amanda Aasen, Emily Ambrosius, Denisha Erno and Katie McNamara and sophomores Kjersti Aasen, Sophie Erdmann, Mariah Oppor and Karina Welch,” said Anderson, who has a 253-159 record in his 20 seasons as the team’s coach.
The roster also includes freshmen Lindsey Bloom, Emily Bonikowske, Holly Boyle, Jessica Faldet, Brianne Huettner, Kylie Johnson, Emily Madson, Jane Oligney and Brooke Phillips. Madson will be have knee surgery and will not be able to play this season.
Besides Oppor and Marx, the T-Birds also lost first baseman Teresa Sprangers to graduation. Marx and Oppor were first-team all-conference and all-district players; Oppor made the all-state third team; and Marx and Sprangers earned academic all-state honors.
“Those three senior girls did a great job for us as leaders on and off the field,” Anderson said.
The T-Birds are scheduled to open the season Tuesday, March 27, with a nonconference game at Port Edwards. The varsity game is set to start at 4 p.m., with the junior varsity contest to follow at 5:30 p.m. The varsity squad’s home opener is slated for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5, against Bonduel. The varsity and JV teams will also play a game this season at Milwaukee’s Helfaer Field, located next to Miller Park. The teams will play West Salem Saturday, April 21, and attend a Brewers game that night.
“I believe the conference will be very balanced this season, which should make for a very competitive conference race,” Anderson said. “I would give Amherst a slight edge over the other teams because they return first-team all-conference junior pitcher Jess Torrey and junior catcher Marisa Loken. If Pacelli can find a new starting pitcher along with the six returning players from last season’s state runner-up team, they should continue to be very competitive.
“Weyauwega-Fremont will also need to find a starting pitcher along with a new starting catcher this season, but they have some very talented younger players and should also do well this season,” he added. “Wittenberg-Birnamwood, Bonduel and Manawa each return their starting pitcher and other very good position players, which will make them also very competitive this season. Our goal is to play hard, learn as we go and compete and we’ll see what happens regarding the wins and losses.”
Up-to-date JV and varsity schedules can be found at www.iola.k12.wi.us/hs/softball.cfm. Fans can also call the I-S Softball Hotline, 715-445-2411, ext. 500, for game information. Cancellation of games, especially due to the weather, will be announced immediately on the hotline and WDUX FM.
Tuesday, March 27 – at Port Edwards, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 3 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 – vs. Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 10 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 12 – vs. Stevens Point Pacelli, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 14 – at Stratford Invitational, TBA, 10 a.m., noon.
Monday, April 16 – vs. Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 17 – vs. Rosholt, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 19 – vs. Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 21 – vs. West Salem at Helfaer Field, Milwaukee, TBA.
Monday, April 23 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 26 – vs. Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, April 27 – at Waupaca, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 28 – vs. Tigerton, 10 a.m.; vs. Wausaukee, 1 p.m.
Monday, April 30 – at Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 3 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 7 – at Stevens Point Pacelli, 4 p.m.
Thursday, May 10 – at Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 14 – at Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 17 – vs. Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.