Four NCAA Div. III championships
CEDAR RAPIDS—The No. 12-ranked Central College softball team, which finished tied for seventh at the 2013 NCAA Division III Softball Championship finals following its 12th Iowa Conference regular season title, has been selected to finish atop the league standings once again.
Voted on by the conference coaches, Central received six of the eight first-place votes, while Luther College received the remaining two and is picked second. Coe College is picked third, followed by Simpson, Dubuque, Buena Vista, Loras and Wartburg.
The Dutch (12-4) finished last season with a 32-10 overall record and 12-2 league mark, tying with Coe for the regular season title. Led by junior pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS), a 2013 third-team NFCA Division III All-America selection, Central returns six position starters, two starting pitchers and 14 letterwinners from last year's squad.
The Dutch opened the 2014 campaign at the Tucson Invitational Games, outscoring its opponents 115-30 over 16 games. Three Central players—senior shortstop Annie Sarcone (Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS), sophomore pitcher Trisha Smith (New Hampton) and junior third baseman Whitney Sowers (Marshalltown)—earned weekly league honors during the 12-day trip to the Grand Canyon State.
Preview by Josh Schroeder, Iowa Conference director of information:
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa --- Central College, which tied for last year’s Iowa Conference title and tied for seventh at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship finals, is the coaches’ favorite to win the 2014 Iowa Conference softball crown. The Dutch totaled 55 points with six of seven possible first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own schools in the preseason poll). Luther College (51 points) picked up the two remaining first-place votes to go along with five second-place votes.
Coe College was third with 44 points (two second-place votes, five third-place votes), just ahead of Simpson College with 38 points (three third-place votes, four fourth-place votes). The complete 2014 Iowa Conference softball coaches’ poll follows.
Rank School (1st place votes) Points 2013 Record
1 Central (6) 55 (32-10, 12-2 IIAC)
2 Luther (2) 51 (33-11, 9-5 IIAC)
3 Coe 44 (34-8, 12-2 IIAC)
4 Simpson 38 (29-10, 8-6 IIAC)
5 Dubuque 29 (16-18, 7-7 IIAC)
6 Buena Vista 28 (14-21, 5-9 IIAC)
7 Loras 21 (12-19, 3-11 IIAC)
8 Wartburg 14 (4-30, 0-14 IIAC)
Quik Starts: With only a handful of spring break games remaining, seven of eight IIAC schools currently sit above the .500 mark through March 27, including four schools that are at least eight games above .500. Three of the four are ranked nationally would be considered usual suspects – Luther (14-2), Coe (14-3) and Central (12-4) all qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season – while the fourth, Wartburg (15-3), has been a pleasant surprise. Dubuque (8-4), Simpson (11-7) and Loras (8-6) also have winning records, while Buena Vista is 6-10.
Conference Schedule: The 2014 Iowa Conference softball schedule gets underway Tuesday, April 1 as all eight schools take to the diamond to open their 14-game league slates. Schools will play a doubleheader against each Conference opponent.
Conference Tournament: The 2014 Iowa Conference Softball Tournament will be held May 1-3 and will be hosted by the tournament’s top seed. The top two seeds from the regular season will receive first-round byes and the Tournament schedule will feature four games each on Thursday and Friday and two, possibly three, games on Saturday.
Early Season Polls: The Iowa Conference has been well represented in the early-season NFCA Division III polls. In the March 26 ranking, Luther ranked seventh, Coe ninth and Central 12th. That represents the highest ranking for both Coe, while Central and Luther have been ranked has high as fourth and sixth, respectively, earlier in March.
Team-By-Team Preview: A brief preview for each Iowa Conference team follows.
Buena Vista University
2013 Record: 14-21 overall, 5-9 IIAC (sixth); tie-fifth at IIAC Tournament (0-1)
The Beavers return eight starters and 11 letter winners from last season, including an all-Iowa Conference second-teamer and two All-IIAC honorable mentions.
Junior Stephanie Hayden returns for another season. An all-IIAC second-teamer who split time between third base and the outfield last year, Hayden was BVU’s top hitter with a .368 batting average, 39 hits, seven doubles, 14 RBI, 19 runs scored, 13 walks drawn and eight stolen bases in 35 games. She led the team in hits and walks drawn and tied for the team lead in doubles and stolen bases. In IIAC play, Hayden hit .381 with 16 hits, two doubles, three RBI and four runs scored while posting a .429 slugging percentage and a .438 on-base percentage. She ranked ninth in the league in batting average and 10th in on-base percentage.
The middle of the infield returns intact led by seniors Sam Engleman at shortstop and Brooke Berkey at second base. Engleman started all 35 games last season, ranking fourth on the team with a .281 batting average. She finished the year with a 27 hits, four doubles, 16 runs scored and team-highs in slugging percentage (.479), triples (3), home runs (3) and RBIs (18). Engleman ranked sixth among IIAC players in triples. Berkey also started all 35 games, batting .252 out of the top two spots in the lineup. She matched Engleman’s 27 hits and four doubles while leading the team with 22 runs scored and eight stolen bases (tied with Hayden). Engleman ranked second among IIAC players with 92 assists followed by Berkey in third with 87.
In conference play, Berkey hit .297 with 11 hits, three doubles, three stolen bases and eight runs scored, ranking fifth in the league in stolen bases. Engleman hit .263 with 10 hits, a double, a triple, three RBI and eight runs scored. She was also hit by three pitches, which tied for the league lead. Defensively, Engleman ranked second in the IIAC with 41 assists, one shy of the league-leading total of 42 posted by Central’s Whitney Sowers, while Berkey ranked sixth with 36.
Sophomore Jenna Falline returns in the circle for the Beavers after starting 20 games a year ago. She posted an 8-11 record with a 2.35 ERA, 12 complete games, three shutouts and 46 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings. Falline ranked fifth among IIAC pitchers in starts, sixth in ERA and innings pitched, eighth in opposing batting average (.259), ninth in appearances (20) and 10th in strikeouts. Led by Falline, the Beavers ranked third in pitching in league play with a 2.95 ERA. She appeared in nine IIAC games (all starts), posting a 3-6 record with a 1.88 ERA, seven complete games, one shutout and 20 strikeouts in 52 innings. She ranked third in the IIAC in games started, fourth in earned run average, fifth in opposing batting average (.246) and innings pitched and ninth in strikeouts.
Quote from head coach Heather Hupke
“[We are] looking to have consistency in all parts of our game and be playing well by the time the conference season arrives. [We are] looking forward to another year of IIAC softball.”
2013 Record: 32-10 overall, 12-2 IIAC (co-champion); tie-third, IIAC Tournament (0-1); NCAA Pella Regional champion (4-0); tie-seventh, NCAA Division III Championship finals (0-2)
The Dutch return six position players and two starting pitchers from last year’s NCAA seventh-place squad. Leading the way will be senior shortstop Annie Sarcone, the 2012 IIAC Position Player of the Year. Sarcone, a three-time all-IIAC pick who also earned first-team all-region and second-team all-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association in 2012, hit .312 (39-of-125) in 42 games overall with nine doubles, 25 runs scored, a triple, and three home runs. She also tied for the team lead with 29 RBI, had a .472 slugging percentage and a .409 on-base percentage and had eight multiple-hit and a team-high eight multiple-RBI games. In 14 IIAC starts, Sarcone batted .318 (14-of-44) with five doubles, a home run, 10 RBI, 10 walks drawn and 13 runs scored. She ranked tied for the league lead in doubles and walks drawn, fourth in total plate appearances (55) and seventh in runs scored.
Junior second baseman Abbey Strajack, a 2012 third-team NFCA All-American, was limited to just 30 games (including just two in IIAC play) due to an injury. She hit .429 (39-of-91) with 26 runs scored, three doubles, two triples, 12 RBI and 14 stolen bases while posting a .505 slugging percentage and a .469 on-base percentage. Strajack was second on the team (and third among IIAC players) in stolen bases, third in runs scored and fourth in hits despite missing one-quarter of the season. She also led the team with 14 multiple-hit games.
Also returning for the Dutch is junior third baseman Whitney Sowers. Sowers, a two-time second-team all-conference pick, started all 42 games batting .344 (45-of-131) with 13 doubles, two home runs, 27 RBI, 31 runs scored, nine stolen bases and 16 walks drawn. She ranked fourth among league players in doubles, seventh in walks drawn and eighth in total plate appearances (152) while posting a league-high 108 assists defensively. Sowers hit .367 in 14 IIAC games (18-of-49) with five doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI and 15 runs scored. She tied for the league lead in doubles, total plate appearances (57) and assists (42) and ranked third in runs scored and stolen bases and sixth in hits.
Juniors Karlee Rock and Katie Canney are also back after earning all-conference honors last season. Rock, a first-team all-league pick at designated player, hit .253 with 22 hits, four doubles, three home runs and 25 RBI. In league play, her average jumped to .353 and her slugging percentage to .706 behind three doubles and three home runs. She ranked second in the league in RBI (15), sixth in slugging percentage and ninth in on-base percentage (.450). Canney, a second-team pick at first base last year, is making the move to catcher in 2014. She hit .314 in 42 games with 37 hits, six doubles, five home runs and 24 RBI. In 14 IIAC games, Canney hit .364 with two doubles and three home runs in league play for a .614 slugging percentage, which ranked 11th in the league.
In the circle, junior pitcher Mallory Schulenberg earned third-team all-America honors, first-team all-Iowa Conference and all-region honors and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the last season’s NCAA Division III regional at Pella. Schulenberg appeared in 26 games (19 starts), posting a 16-4 record with a 1.51 ERA, six complete games, eight shutouts (four solo), one save and 81 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings. She ranked second among IIAC players in ERA, fourth in wins, opposing batting average (.215) and innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts and games started and seventh in appearances as the Dutch posted the IIAC’s top ERA at 1.47. In conference play, Schulenberg appeared in eight games with six starts, posting a 5-0 record, a 1.74 ERA, one complete game, one shutout, a save and 31 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. She ranked second in the league in ERA, fourth in opposing batting average (.242) and wins, fifth in strikeouts and sixth in innings pitched. The Dutch will be without the services of sophomore Kelsey Stender, a second-team all-conference pick a year ago, who was lost for the year with an injury. Stender appeared in 27 games in 2013, posting a 10-4 record with an IIAC-leading 1.31 ERA while striking out 82.
Quote from head coach George Wares
“As always from top to bottom, I think the Iowa Conference is the best league in the country. We expect to be in the mix for the conference championship and hopefully a postseason bid. It will again be a very competitive race with some very entertaining softball for the fans.”
2013 Record: 34-8 overall, 12-2 IIAC (co-champion); IIAC Tournament runner-up (1-1); Fourth at NCAA Pella Regional (2-2)
Coe returns eight letter winners including four starting position players and one starting pitcher from last year’s IIAC Tournament runner-up and NCAA Regional fourth-place finisher.
Senior Maddison Woodruff, the defending IIAC Pitcher of the Year who earned first-team all-region honors last year, returns in the circle for the Kohawks. Woodruff pitched in 27 of Coe’s 42 games a year ago, starting 22 and posting a 17-2 record with a 2.06 ERA, seven complete games, four shutouts and 142 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings. She ranked second among IIAC pitchers in strikeouts, third in wins, fourth in starts, fifth in ERA, appearances and innings pitched and sixth in opposing batting average (.236). In league play, she appeared in nine games with seven starts, posting a 6-0 record and 1.29 ERA with 46 strikeouts, three complete games and two shutouts in 38 innings. Woodruff led the league in ERA and wins and ranked second in strikeouts, third in opposing batting average (.241) and eighth in innings pitched.
Senior catcher Abby Flannagan, the 2011 IIAC Position Player of the Year, earned her third all-conference and all-region honors last season. She started all 42 games, batting .450 (58-for-129) with 17 doubles, 10 home runs, 60 RBI, 105 total bases and seven stolen bases while posting a .814 slugging percentage and a .480 on-base percentage. Flannagan led all IIAC players in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, RBI, doubles, home runs and total bases and ranked fourth in on-base percentage as the Kohawks led the league with a .346 average. In 14 IIAC games, she hit .413 (19-of-46) with two doubles, four home runs, 15 RBI and eight runs scored, ranking second in the league in RBI, third in total bases, fourth in hits, fifth in batting average and slugging percentage (.717) and seventh in on-base percentage (.472). Flannagan had 16 multiple-hit and a team-high 16 multiple-RBI games, including a 6-RBI game against Bethany Lutheran in the NCAA regional.
Sophomore first baseman Emily Grell earned first-team all-conference and third-team all-region honors last season after hitting .333 (40-of-120) in 42 games with five doubles, six home runs, 31 RBI, 12 runs scored and 63 total bases. She ranked seventh among IIAC players in home runs and ninth in RBI. Grell hit .388 (19-of-49) in league play with a double, three home runs, 13 RBIs, 29 total bases and four runs scored. She ranked fourth in the league in hits, sixth in batting average and RBIs and eighth in total bases. Grell had 13 multiple-hit and eight multiple-RBI games.
Senior outfielder Danielle Schlotterbeck started all 42 games last season, batting .308 with 37 hits, 23 runs scored, seven doubles, seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 65 total bases, ranking fourth among IIAC players in home runs and 11th in RBIs. In 14 IIAC games, she hit .349 (15-of-44) with two doubles, five home runs, 13 RBI, nine runs scored and 32 total bases, ranking second in the league in home runs, third in slugging percentage (.744), fifth in total bases and sixth in RBI.
Quote from head coach Bob Timmons
“This season brings a lot of new faces to our team with opportunities for them to make significant contributions beginning with game number one. We have a strong senior class that will provide valuable experience and leadership to help guide the younger players through their first season in the IIAC. As is the case every year in the IIAC, there are no 'off' days because every doubleheader is a true dog fight. It's really great to be able to face the conference competition we do in an effort to prepare for postseason play. "
University of Dubuque
2013 Record: 16-18 overall, 7-7 IIAC (fifth); tie-third at IIAC tournament (1-1)
Dubuque returns eight letter winners, including five starting position players and one starting pitcher from a year ago as the Spartans attempt to qualify for the Iowa Conference tournament for the third time in six years.
Leading the charge for the 2014 Spartans is 2013 first-team all-IIAC utility player Amber Meyer. Meyer, a senior who was the Spartans’ primary catcher last season, started all 34 games with a .409 batting average (38-of-93), 22 RBI, three doubles, a triple, five home runs, 25 runs scored, 58 total bases, eight stolen bases, 21 walks drawn, a .624 slugging percentage and a .518 on-base percentage. She led all IIAC players in on-base percentage and ranked second in walks, fourth in batting average, seventh in slugging percentage and ninth in stolen bases. In 14 IIAC games, Meyer batted .333 (12-of-36) with a double, a home run, seven RBI, 16 total bases, 10 walks drawn and 13 runs scored. She tied for the league lead in walks and ranked sixth in on-base percentage (.478) and runs scored.
Junior infieldler Kelli Gerace started all 34 games last season, batting .238 (20-of-84) with seven doubles, eight RBIs, six runs scored and 27 total bases while drawing 11 walks. In league play, she hit .289 (11-of-38) with four doubles and four RBI with 15 total bases.
Senior Caitlin Aulwes and sophomore Jen Pohlman will be patrolling the outfield for the Spartans. Aulwes played in 26 games, hitting .148 (8-for-54) with six RBIs and seven runs scored. She started eight of 10 games in IIAC play, scoring two runs. Pohlman played in 32 games (30 starts), batting .233 (17-of-73) with a double, three RBIs, five stolen bases and 10 runs scored. She played in all 14 IIAC games, posting four hits including a double, four runs scored and two RBIs.
Junior second baseman Meggie Schmidt, a second-team all-conference selection last year, hit .359 (28-of-78) a year ago with six doubles, two triples, a home run, 15 RBIs and 16 runs scored. In league play, she batted .314 (11-of-35) with five doubles, six RBIs and seven runs scored, sharing the league lead in doubles.
Quote from head coach Wendi Wipperfurth
"We have a lot of young talent this season that will contribute to the team. They are hard workers who understand the game of softball and how to compete. The IIAC will be exciting this season. The race for the conference tournament will be close this season as many teams have the potential to win."
2013 Record: 12-19 overall, 3-11 IIAC (seventh); DNQ for IIAC Tournament
The Duhawks returns 11 letter winners, including seven starting position players and one pitcher from last year’s squad that missed the Iowa Conference tournament for the first time since 2009.
Junior catcher/designated player Katie Serpico started 29 games last season, batting .355 (33-of-93) with five doubles, a home run, 18 RBIs and five runs scored, leading the Duhawks in batting average and on-base percentage (.417) and ranking second in hits and RBIs and fifth in slugging percentage (.441). In league play, Serpico started all 14 games, hitting .362 (17-of-47) with a double, five RBIs and one run scored. She ranked eighth in the league in hits and finished the year with eight multiple-hit and six multiple-RBI games.
Senior outfielder Alaina Rigdon started 27 games, primarily in center field, batting .296 (24-of-81) with six doubles, a triple, five home runs, 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored, leading the team in slugging percentage (.580) and ranking second in RBIs, home runs and on-base percentage (.387). In conference play, she started all 14 games, hitting .300 (12-of-40) with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored. Rigdon tied for the league lead in doubles and ranked third in the conference in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage (.725) and eighth in total bases (29).
In the circle, the Duhawks will be led by junior Holly Klein. Klein appeared in 19 games last season, starting 14 and posting a 4-8 record, a 3.72 ERA, three complete games, one shutout, one save and 42 strikeouts in 79 innings. She ranked seventh among IIAC pitchers in games started, ninth in opposing batting average (.262) and 10th in ERA. In nine IIAC appearances (seven starts), she went 1-4 with a 5.94 ERA, one complete game, one save and 13 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings, ranking fifth in the league in games started and 10th in ERA, innings pitched and opposing batting average (.338).
Quote from head coach Ashley Winter
“With 14 underclassmen we will take advantage of the first part of our schedule and use it as an opportunity for us to learn more about our defense, pitching and offense. Developing consistency will be important. We expect the conference to be strong from top to bottom and look forward to the challenge.”
2013 Record: 33-11 overall, 9-5 IIAC (third); IIAC Tournament champion (3-0); NCAA Whitewater Regional champion (4-0); Tie-fifth at NCAA Division III Softball Championships (1-2)
Luther returns nine letter winners, including four starting position players and two pitchers, from a 2013 squad that qualified for the NCAA Division III Softball Championship finals for the fourth consecutive year.
Senior Becca Girvan returns in the circle for the Norse. A three-time all-region player, 2012 NFCA First Team All-American and the 2012 IIAC Pitcher of the Year who was named the Most Outstanding Player at last year’s Whitewater NCAA Regional, Girvan accounted for 195 innings in 35 appearances (28 starts), posting a 23-7 record with a 2.80 ERA, 24 complete games, six shutouts and 223 strikeouts. She held opponents to a .214 batting average. In league play, Girvan made 11 appearances (eight starts), compiling a 6-3 mark, a 2.52 ERA, six complete games, two shutouts and 80 strikeouts in 61 innings. Girvan led the league in strikeouts, nearly doubling the total posted by Coe’s Maddison Woodruff (46), and tied for the league lead in wins while also ranking second in opposing batting average (.209), third in innings pitched and fourth in appearances and games started. Girvan also made the top 30 of the final 2013 NCAA Division III statistical rankings in a handful of categories – strikeouts (12th), victories (13th) and strikeouts per seven innings (29th, 8.0). She recorded 10+ strikeouts on seven occasions and nine strikeouts in five other games.
Completing the Norse battery is senior catcher Kayla Hatting. Hatting started all 44 games, batting .303 (36-of-119) with three doubles, 10 RBIs, 26 runs scored and six stolen bases. In 14 league games, she hit .189 (7-of-37) with an RBI and eight runs scored.
The Norse offense will rest squarely on trio of utility players. Junior Kelsey Rose, who was Luther’s No. 2 pitcher as freshman and split time between right field and designated player last year, seems to have settled in as the starting left fielder this season. In 2012, she played in 28 games with 22 starts, hitting .260 (19-of-73) with two doubles, 13 RBIs and 13 runs scored. In nine conference games, she hit .304 (7-of-23), two doubles, three RBIs and five runs scored.
Sophomores Carli Radil and Miranda McCay were Luther’s 2013 co-rookies of the year. Radil, a first baseman/designated player who earned third team all-region honors last season, started all 44 games, batting .327 (48-of-147) with nine doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBIs, 25 runs scored and 78 total bases. She ranked fourth among IIAC players in home runs, fifth in RBIs, sixth in total bases and seventh in hits. In 14 league games, Radil hit .333 (16-of-48) with a double, three home runs, eight RBIs and seven runs scored. Overall, she posted 16 multiple-hit and 10 multiple-RBI games.
McCay, a first-team all-IIAC outfielder in 2013 who could split time between the infield and outfield this season, played in 39 games last season with 34 starts, leading the team with a .404 batting average (38-of-94), 10 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 27 RBIs, 27 runs scored and 56 total bases. She ranked sixth among IIAC players in batting average, seventh in doubles, eighth in slugging percentage and ninth in on-base percentage (.438). Playing in and starting 12 IIAC games, she batted .474 (18-of-38) with two doubles, two home runs, 15 RBIs and seven runs scored. She ranked second only to Central’s Caitlyn Meyer in batting average and also ranked second in RBIs, fifth in on-base percentage (.487), sixth in hits, seventh in slugging percentage (.684). McCay finished the year with 13 multiple-hit and six multiple-RBI games.
Quote from head coach Renae Hartl
“The depth and quality of competition in this conference makes winning this league quite an accomplishment. It will be another great year of IIAC softball. Our team always starts with a core group of talented, hard-working returners and this year is no different; this season, it will start with our two seniors on the mound and behind the plate.”
2013 Record: 29-10 overall, 8-6 IIAC (fourth); Tie-fifth at IIAC Tournament (0-1)
Simpson returns 14 letter winners, including six starting position players and one pitcher, from last year’s squad and is positioned to make a run at another Iowa Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship field for the fourth time in nine years.
Leading the Storm offensively will be junior outfielder Ashley Prettyman. Prettyman, a first-team all-region and second-team all-IIAC pick last year, hit .390 (46-of-118) with a team-high 15 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 29 RBIs and 32 runs scored. She ranked second among IIAC players in slugging percentage (.678) and doubles, fourth in total bases (80), fifth in on-base percentage (.479) and walks drawn (18), seventh in runs scored and triples and ninth in batting average. Prettyman started 14 IIAC games, hitting .340 (16-of-47) with three doubles, two triples, three home runs, 10 RBIs and 14 runs scored, tying for the league lead in triples and ranking fourth in runs scored, fifth in total bases (32) and eighth in slugging percentage (.681).
Anchoring the infield will be junior Hailey Jensen at first base and seniors Hillary Harmon at third base and Kylie Van Houten at second base. Jensen, an all-IIAC honorable mention and a second-team all-region pick last season, was Simpson’s top hitter. She hit .411 (53-of-129) with six doubles, five home runs, 32 RBIs and 17 runs scored, ranking third among IIAC players in batting average and hits and seventh in RBIs. Jensen hit .318 (14-of-44) in 14 IIAC games, with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs and three runs scored. She finished the year with a team-high 17 multiple-hit and eight multiple-RBI games.
Harmon, an honorable mention pick by the coaches in 2011, played in 37 games with 33 starts last season, batting .261 (23-of-88) with five doubles, a triple, a home run, 15 RBIs and 16 runs scored. She hit .400 (10-of-25) in 12 IIAC games with two doubles, four RBIs and seven runs scored.
Van Houten, a third-team all-region pick, started all 39 games, batting .374 (46-of-123) with 11 doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 30 RBIs, 22 runs scored and 80 total bases. She ranked fourth among IIAC players in total bases and home runs, sixth in doubles and slugging percentage and 10th in RBIs. Van Houten hit .286 (12-of-42) in 14 IIAC starts with four doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and four runs scored. She ranked third in the league in triples. She posted 14 multiple-hit and eight multiple-RBI games.
Leading the Storm in the circle will be sophomore Kaytlyn Ernst. Ernst made 18 appearances (11 starts) and posted an 8-1 record, a 3.54 ERA, two complete games, one shutout and 47 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. She ranked seventh among IIAC pitchers in wins and ninth in strikeouts. In league play, Ernst made seven appearances with two starts, posting a 3-0 record, a 3.76 ERA, one complete game, one shutout and 14 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.
Quote from head coach Henry Christowski
“Our returning players will bring a lot of experience to the table and, with the additions to our pitching staff, we should be able to compete. The IIAC will continue to be one of the premier softball conferences in the nation with three teams ranked in the top 25. There will be a lot of top-quality softball played again this year in the conference as conference schools consistently raise their game.”
2013 Record: 4-30 overall, 0-14 IIAC (eighth); DNQ for IIAC Tournament
Wartburg will rely on five returning starters as head coach Leigh Ann LaFave continues the rebuilding process in Waverly. The Knights are attempting to end a string of four consecutive losing seasons and, after going winless in IIAC play in both 2012 and 2013, will enter the conference season on a 33-game losing streak in league play.
Junior catcher Katie Wyman returns after hitting .237 (22-of-93) while starting all 34 games. She had three doubles, hit one of Wartburg’s two home runs, drove in five and scored seven runs. She also drew a team-high 13 walks. Wyman hit a team-best .294 in league play, starting all 14 games. She had a team-high 10 hits, two doubles, the Knights’ lone home run in IIAC play and one of two RBIs.
Senior right fielder Jess Brunko also started all 34 games last season. She hit .205 with 17 hits in 83 at-bats, one double, one RBI, five runs scored and four stolen bases. In 14 IIAC games, Brunko hit .207 with six hits (one double) in 29 at-bats.
In terms of returning players, sophomores Samantha Wurtzel and Savannah Warburton should also contribute. Last season, Warburton played in 32 games (starting 30) with a team-best .259 batting average and 13 RBIs. She had 21 hits, two doubles, one home run and three runs scored. In 12 IIAC games, Warburton had four hits, including a double, and an RBI. Wurtzel played in and started 24 games with a .167 average, nine hits and three runs scored. She started 10 IIAC games.
One big question mark will be in the circle, where the Knights do not return a pitcher from last year’s squad.
Quote from head coach Leigh Ann LaFave
“The expectation is that our players demonstrate their commitment to improvement and competitiveness. Continued emphasis is placed on the fundamentals of the game and by executing the small things, it puts us in a position to compete with other teams in the conference. Our program is making strides in all phases of the game and we hope to be one of the six teams that get to participate in the conference tournament at the beginning of May. The Iowa Conference is a strong conference. Playing quality opponents each time out forces every team to raise the level of its game. Every team presents a unique challenge.”