By Cara L. Dempski
BOYCEVILLE — The Lady Bulldogs have some big shoes to fill following the 2016 season in which Boyceville finished one game over .500 with an 11-10 record.
Boyceville was 6-7 in the Large Dunn-St. Croix, but came on strong late in the season and made it to the WIAA Division 3 regional final before they were eliminated from tournament play with a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to Dunn-St. Croix champ Elk Mound.
Head coach Jamie Olson lost the leadership and skill of Jenna Beyrer at third base, Peyton Hellmann at center field, Katie Kegen in the pitcher’s circle, and Maddy Bygd behind the plate. Kegen and Bygd had worked together as a pitching/catching team for three years before their May 2016 graduation. Kegen was awarded D-SC honorable mention, and Bygd was named to the first-team all-conference squad.
Beyrer and Hellmann were both good athletes who Olson said could play multiple positions, and were good base runners and hitters.
“These four will be greatly missed, and it will be really hard to replace what they did for the Boyceville High School softball program,” Olson stated.
All is not lost, though, as the Boyceville squad returns 13 letter winners from the 2016 team, including the bulk of its starters.
Marissa Dormanen is coming off ACL surgery to take a spot at first base, while senior Brooklyn Hellmann will take a spot behind home plate after having ACL surgery that kept her off the field last season.
“Having these two back in the lineup is awesome,” Olson expressed. “They bring a lot of softball experience and competitiveness to our team.”
Senior Maddy Riek, who won second-team all-conference honors in 2016, will return at short stop, Jaida Peterson spent a lot of time playing varsity ball last year, earning a .333 RBI. She will hold down second base, while senior Morgan Kuhn will be at third.
Kayla Hoff will return to her spot in left field in 2017, Tori Kostman will manage center field, and McKenna Weber will go back to right field. Alyx Bloom looks likely as a pitcher after earning a varsity letter at the position, and Hunter Hitz may serve as Hellmann’s backup behind the mask. Amber Retzloff, Jasyln Krueger and Shania Dunn will all be fighting for starting positions.
2016 starter Kylie Krueger will sit out the 2017 season after needing ACL repair.
Olson is looking at freshmen Tyra Kostman, Taylor Grambow, Emma Bygd, Emma Ouellette, Larissa Krueger and Hannah Johnson to provide depth. Kostman could provide relief as a pitcher, but is pushing for a starting position. Grambow shows strength at both catcher and third base, Bygd could serve as Riek’s relief at shortstop, Ouellette is hoping to see some time at second base, Krueger will take her talents to the outfield, and Johnson is hoping to see some play at first base.
The Bulldogs, as noted earlier, return seven positions, so will have a solid base upon which to build the 2017 team. That being said, Boyceville lost a true asset in Kegen’s pitching, and will need to be strong there again to keep up its defensive play.
“Throwing strikes and not giving free passes will be critical, because our defense has potential to be pretty good,” Olson explained.
He also said the team will need to be better at bat in 2017, and that is already a team-wide focus this season.
Olson would like to see his team compete every game, and said he really wants the girls to have fun and be passionate about the game. He believes that those traits will pull everything else into place for the Bulldogs.
The Boyceville head coach has his eye on Elk Mound this season.
“They have been the team to beat in the last few years,” Olson said of the Mounders.
He also sees Durand as a threat, and believes Glenwood City and Mondovi will be much improved from the past few seasons.
Jamie Olson is in his eighth season coaching the Lady Bulldogs, and is not sure of his record during that time. A search of the Wisconsin Sports Network website indicates Olson’s record since his first season in 2010 is split evenly at 68-68.
Coach Olson will be assisted in 2017 by Kim Webb and Kevin Bygd.
The Bulldogs have a scrimmage scheduled at home on March 23, and hosted Prairie Farm on March 27. They will take on the Somerset Spartans on March 30 before hosting Clear Lake on April 3.
Boyceville will play its first DSC contest at Durand on April 6.
Seniors: Madysn Riek, Morgan Kuhn, Tori Kostman, Brooklyn Hellmann, Kayla Hoff and Abi Erickson.
Juniors: Kylie Krueger (manager), Jaslyn Krueger, McKenna Weber, Marissa Dormanen and Shania Dunn.
Sophomores: Alex Bloom, Jaida Peterson, Amber Retzloff and Hunter Hitz.
Freshmen: Tyra Kostman, Emma Bygd, Emma Ouellette, Hannah Johnson, Larissa Krueger and Taylor Grambow.