Thunderbirds short on varsity experience
Johnson back for senior season
By Greg Seubert
Be competitive and keep improving.
Those are two of the goals this season for the Iola-Scandinavia softball team.
Although the Thunderbirds return five players, include first-team all-conference pitcher Kendall Johnson, the team is short on varsity experience, according to longtime coach Tom Anderson.
“We are a very young team with very little varsity experience,” he said. “Having Kendall Johnson back as our starting pitcher for the third straight season is a huge benefit. Kendall gives us experience on a team that has very little varsity experience.
Besides Johnson, the T-Birds will also rely on the experience Brooklyn Podgorny and Sadie Schustek, a trio of seniors that saw plenty of time on the field last year, as well as juniors Erin Charles and Quinn Hoyord.
“We have several players battling for the remaining varsity positions, including juniors Brenna Bonikowske, Lindsey Frank and Makenna Stalter, sophomores Sophia Gullixon, Karina Wickman and Emily Wolfgram and freshmen Mackenzie Kielblock, Bryanna Kisting, Hannah Melum, Lyncoln Podgorny and Olivia Schustek.
The T-Birds don’t have enough players to field a junior varsity team and lost six seniors from last year’s team: Kaylin Ellioff, Baleigh Fuhs, Lexi Hitchcock, Karly Honken, Jayden Podgorny and Megan Thulien.
Podgorny made the all-conference second team and Ellioff received honorable mention. Ellioff, Hitchcock, Honken, Podgorny and Thulien also earned academic all-state honors.
The T-Birds finished in a tie for fourth place with Bonduel in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference with a 6-8 record. Pacelli won the conference championship with a 13-1 record, followed by Weyauwega-Fremont (12-2), Shiocton (13-3). Finishing behind I-S and Bonduel were Amherst and Manawa (4-10) and Wittenberg-Birnamwood (0-14).
The T-Birds held their first practice March 20 and are in Orlando, Florida, this week to play four games at the Disney Sports Complex.
“We had a very good first week of practice,” Anderson said. “We have a talented group of freshmen who have played a lot of softball during the summer and a much-improved group of sophomores and juniors. We will need fill several key positions, including catcher, first baseman, shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. The girls are working hard to earn that playing time at those spots.”
Anderson expects Weyauwega-Fremont, Pacelli and Shiocton to battle for a conference championship.
“All three of those teams return their first-team all-conference pitchers, along with other good players throughout their teams,” he said. “I see ourselves and the rest of the conference finishing below Weyauwega-Fremont, Shiocton and Pacelli. The order of finish will all depend on how each of us improve throughout the season.”
Returning all-conference players include Weyauwega-Fremont’s Kiley Akey, Cadyn Ehrenberg and Hailey Krause; Manawa’s Skye Amador; Amherst’s Sam Yenter, Maizie Berry and Lexi Haferbecker; Bonduel’s Kailee Pederson; Pacelli’s Brook Nagorski, Paige Hintz, Christonna Shafranski, Taylor Raflik, Emma Kulick and Cailin Firkus; Shiocton’s Sydney Wilcox, Tina Ubl and Gabrielle Gunderson; and Wittenberg-Birnamwood’s Vicki Dombeck.
After the T-Birds return from Florida, the team will host Amherst at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 3, in the CWC-8 opener for both teams.
Anderson is 341-201 entering his 26th season and his coaching staff this year includes Stacy Bestul, Teresa Kielblock and Nathan Schustek.
“It might take several games to settle in on a lineup or we may have to move girls around during the game or from game to game depending on who is playing well at the time,” he said. “There is playing time available. The question is who will step up and take advantage of it.
“Our goal for this year is competitive in each game and improve throughout the season,” he added. “If we compete and improve throughout the season, we will be OK.”
Iola-Scandinavia 2017 Softball Schedule
Monday, March 27 – vs. Central Clay County (Alabama) at Disney Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida, 10 a.m.*
Tuesday, March 28 – vs. Grayslake North (Illinois) and Grayslake Central (Illinois) at Disney Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida, 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.*
Wednesday, March 29 – vs. Wausau West at Disney Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida, 4 p.m.*
Monday, April 3 – vs. Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, April 17 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 18 – at Rosholt, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 20 – at Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 22 – vs. Tigerton and Auburndale, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Monday, April 24 – vs. Pacelli, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 25 – vs. Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 1 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 2 – vs. Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 4 – at Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 5 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 8 – vs. Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 9 – at Tri-County, Plainfield, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 11 – vs. Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 12 – at Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 15 – at Pacelli, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 16 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 18 – vs. Wautoma, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 19 – vs. Assumption, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 20 – vs. Wild Rose (DH), 10 a.m.
* indicates Eastern Standard Time.