Softball team replacing five starters
By Greg Seubert
The Iola-Scandinavia softball team has some big shoes to replace from last year’s 21-6 season.
Those shoes belong to the graduated Brooke Phillips, Jane Oligney, Kylie Johnson and Brianne Huettner. All four players, along with Jessica Faldet, started for a Thunderbird team that finished in a three-way tie with Shiocton and Pacelli for third place in the Central Wisconsin-8 Conference.
Faldet started in left field, while Huettner (center field/pitcher), Oligney (catcher), Johnson (third base) and Phillips (shortstop/pitcher) were also in the starting lineup. Johnson, Phillips and Oligney were first-team all-conference and all-district players, while Phillips made the all-state second team and Huettner earned all-conference second team honors.
Phillips and Johnson have started in the outfield this season as freshman outfielders for Bemidji State and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, respectively, while Oligney plays softball at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.
“All five also excelled in the classroom, graduating near the top of their class and earning academic all-state honors from the high school softball coaches association,” coach Tom Anderson said.
On the other hand, Anderson has players back with some varsity experience.
“We are returning three players who saw a significant amount of playing time for us last year at the varsity level,” he said. “They include seniors Kaylin Ellioff at first base, Jayden Podgorny and junior pitcher Kendall Johnson. Johnson earned second-team all-conference honors. Seniors Baleigh Fuhs and Lexi Hitchcock split varsity playing time, while junior Brooklyn Podgorny saw most of her varsity action as a designated hitter. Senior Karly Honken gained valuable pitching experience at the junior varsity level.”
The T-Birds don’t have the numbers to field a junior varsity team, so several players are battling for the remaining varsity positions, including senior Megan Thulien; junior Sadie Schustek; sophomores Brenna Bonikowske, Erin Charles, Lindsey Frank, Quinn Hoyord, Makenna Stalter and Abby Sullivan; and freshmen Jasmine Davids, Sophia Gullixon, Karina Wickman and Emily Wolfgram.
Anderson is entering his 25th season as coach, while Stacy Bestul is back for her 16th season as an assistant and Teresa Kielblock and Nathan Schustek are in their third season.
“Having Kendall Johnson back as our starting pitcher is a huge benefit,” Anderson said. “She give us experience on a team that has very little experience. Kendall is not overpowering, but she is smart and has the ability to place her pitches. We will need to help her out by playing good defense and hopefully be able to put some runs on the board.”
While the T-Birds will have a solid starter on the mound, there are plenty of question marks for the team as it heads into its Thursday, March 31, opener at Wautoma.
“At best, our defense and offense is very questionable coming into this season,” Anderson said. “For the first time in many years, we don’t have a catcher who has wanted to be a catcher since grade school and I would guess that could be a problem for us. Hopefully, either Baleigh Fuhs, Sadie Schustek or Quinn Hoyord will help fill that void behind the plate.
“Plus, we have several other positions on defense to fill,” he added. “We have Kaylin Ellioff to play first base after playing very well there last season. Jayden Podgorny started at second base last season, but we will move her to shortstop this season and should do well there. Karly Honken should do real well as our second pitcher. We lost a lot of our offensive punch to graduation. Hopefully, we can find some offensive production from our players.”
Shiocton defeated the T-Birds 9-6 in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal to end the team’s season for the third year in a row.
Anderson expects Weyauwega-Fremont, last year’s CWC-8 champion, to be the team to beat this season, with defending Division 4 state champion Pacelli and Shiocton in the mix.
“This year’s conference favorite has to be Weyauwega-Fremont,” he said. “They are returning so much talent from last year’s undefeated conference season. The race for second could be interesting between Pacelli and Shiocton. Pacelli lost a lot of talent, but they also are very talented year after year and I’m sure they will be tough again. Shiocton also lost some talent, but they also have some very good players returning.
“I see ourselves and the rest of the conference finishing below Weyauwega-Fremont, Shiocton and Pacelli,” he added. “The order of finish will all depend on how each of us improve throughout the season. Our goal for this year is competitive in each game and improve throughout the season. If we compete and improve throughout the season, we will be OK.”
Iola-Scandinavia 2016 Softball Schedule
• Thursday, March 31 – at Wautoma, 4:30 p.m.
• Monday, April 4 – at Amherst 4:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, April 5 – vs. Assumption, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, April 7 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, April 8 – vs. Rosholt, 4:30 p.m.
• Monday, April 11 – at Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, April 14 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
• Monday, April 18 – vs. Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, April 21 – vs. Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
• Saturday, April 23 – at Tigerton, 10 a.m.; vs. Auburndale at Tigerton, noon.
• Monday, April 25 – at Pacelli, Stevens Point, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, April 28 – vs. Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, April 29 – at Wild Rose, 4:30 p.m.
• Saturday, April 30 – vs. West Salem at Wisconsin Dells, 10 a.m. (DH)
• Monday, May 2 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, May 5 – vs. Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, May 6 – vs. Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, May 10 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m. (rescheduled from May 9)
• Thursday, May 12 – at Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, May 13 – vs. Waupaca, 4:30 p.m.
• Monday, May 16 – vs. Pacelli, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, May 19 – at Lourdes Academy, Oshkosh, 4:30 p.m.
• Saturday, May 21 – vs. Markesan, 10 a.m. (DH)