By Cara L. Dempski
ELK MOUND — Newly-coined head softball coach Samantha Weix freely admits she has no idea what to expect in the Dunn-St. Croix this season.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what the teams in the conference have this year,” she said. “Every game, we need to be ready to compete.”
Weix served as former coach Dylan Pronschinske’s assistant coach in 2016 when the Mounders went 13-0 in the D-SC and were 24-6 overall. She is feeling the lack of Abbey Olson as a pitcher, Jade Sorenson in the outfield, and Hannah Brunner and Krystal Nigon in the infield, who ended their prep careers following the team’s 5-0 sectional final loss to Grantsburg last year.
However, she still has hitters like Karie Jo Nigon, Allison Lindquist and Emily Ausman, all of whom batted over .400 as juniors in 2016. Weix will also get Lauren Scharlau back at first base, Madysen Borofka at second, and Kirsten Dutzle in the outfield. She plans to use the handful of other players who saw some varsity play in various other spots on the diamond.
Nigon reeled in 45 RBI last season, and a 2.14 ERA, Lindquist had an RBI of 42, and Ausman batted in 35 runs. Scharlau held strong at first base, picking up 198 put-outs for a fielding percentage of .995. Borofka nabbed a .915 fielding average at second, and Dutzle made use of the 185 innings she played to nab a .944 fielding percentage.
Ausman, Dutzle, Nigon and Scharlau are playing their final season as seniors, as are Elizabeth Bauer and Baylee Hanson. Borofka and Lindquist are juniors this year, and will play alongside their classmates Erin DeLong and Crista Sweeney. Sophomores Brianna Christenson, Abby Curry, Amber Gilbertson, Alyssa Lauer, Lexi Lee, Deanna Leon, Morgan Radtke and Qwynn Tyman are hoping to make an impact on the varsity squad in 2017.
Weix welcomes freshmen newcomers Hailey Blaskowski, Sophie Cedarblade, Clare Hallum, Orianna Horel and Kayli Solberg to the team. She expects Cedarblade, Hallum and Blaskowski to provide strength on the offensive and defensive ends of the game.
As for the team’s weakness?
“On the defensive side, we won’t be as strong out of the circle with an ‘ace’ pitcher this year,” Weix explained.
The Elk Mound coach countered herself by saying there are still three pitchers on the team who have played a lot of softball, and expects the combination of all three will help fill the voice left by Abbey Olson’s graduation. With that being said, Weix wants to beef up her defensive play, because it will need to be much more crisp to assist the pitcher in earning outs.
Offensively, as noted previously, the Mounders return three of last season’s four top hitters in Ausman, Nigon and Lindquist. Weix and her team of Mounders have set their sights on earning the D-SC title again in 2017, but are looking far beyond that goal toward another one.
“We return a solid group of girls from last year’s team that fell in the sectional finals to a very good Grantsburg team,” Weix said. “With the experience, skill and knowledge we return, we’re hoping to make a deep playoff run again this year.”
The road to the state tournament will not be an easy one, especially with teams like Bloomer standing between Elk Mound and a state tournament berth. Weix noted it is still too early to know how things will fall into place, but she’s hoping she and her staff can create a strong team culture early enough to carry the team through the main season and deep into the playoffs.
In order to do that, the Mounders will need to be sharp on defense and aggressive on offense each time they step onto the field.
Weix will be assisted this year by Darla Diermeier as the assistant varsity coach, Caron Hanson-Shepard as the junior varsity coach, and Shelly Cedarblade as a volunteer coach.
Elk Mound opens its season March 28 at home against Baldwin-Woodville, and continues later that week with a home match-up against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser on March 30.
Seniors: Emily Ausman, Elizabeth Bauer, Kirsten Dutzle, Baylee Hanson, Karie Jo Nigon and Lauren Scharlau.
Juniors: Madysen Borofka, Erin DeLong, Allison Lindquist and Crista Sweeney.
Sophomores: Brianna Christenson, Abby Curry, Amber Gilbertson, Alyssa Lauer, Lexi Lee, Deanna Leon, Morgan Radtke and Qwynn Tyman.
Freshmen: Hailey Blaskowski, Sophie Cedarblade, Clare Hallum, Orianna Horel and Kayli Solberg.