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SUMMER SPORTS

FEATURING: ESSEX • FREMONT FREMONT-MILLS MILLS SIDNEY • SHENANDOAH NISHNABOTNA Copyright 2014 The Valley News & The Sidney-Argus Herald June 2014

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SUMMER SPORTS

2 June 2014

The Valley News

Mustangs harnessing horsepower of youth By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

Coming off a winning season complete with a post-season victory, but having lost a number of big time players and pitching presences, the Shenandoah baseball team is at something of a crossroads. The Mustangs have a new definition of success and a bunch of talented underclassmen ready to keep the program headed in the right direction, but they also have to shore up their pitching rotation and learn how to not let games get away in the middle innings. Coach Brett Roberts thinks it’s going to happen over the course of a packed 2014 season, but the process might take a bit of time. “They’re still trying to figure themselves out, trying to figure their teammates out, learning to play together, learning where each other’s going to be every time,” he said. “But we’re starting to get it.” The best resource Roberts has to that end are the Mustang seniors - Jackson Baker, Jose Rendon and Evan Lind- SHENANDOAH BASEBALL...Front row, left to right: Tim Baldwin, Trevor Finnegan, Alec Grebert, Bridger Nebel, Evan Lindburg, Jackson burg. Baker has been a starter since the second game of his Baker, Jose Rendon, Issaih Reed, Ryan Ruzek, Tyler Rice, Dalton Stoaks, Chris Smith see SHENANDOAH BB, Page 12

Back row, left to right: Coach Matt Potratz, Jonah Baldwin, Cole Nebel, Devon Perkins, Jordan Miller, Kyle Owens, Chase Hiser, Spencer Rice, Morgan Moe, Jake Johnson, Hunter Rice, Caelan Debban, Coach Brett Roberts

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SUMMER SPORTS

The Valley News

June 2014 3

Fillies fast and flexible coming out of the gate By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

SHENANDOAH SOFTBALL...Front row, left to right: Kaylee Birt, Avery Grebert, Abby Peterson Middle row, left to right: McKaya O’Neil, Jordan Major, Devon Wood, JaCee Hogue, Ariel Grebert, Abby Wiegel. Back row, left to right: Brianna Holmes, Sydnie Nothwehr, Cayleen Kirsch, Logan Ehlers, Stacie Fischer, Kaylee Bartholomew, Kayla Stogdill

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With 14 games in the first two weeks of the season, the Shenandoah softball team had a lot of chances to make up ground from a staggered start. As with all summer teams, the Fillies lacked for full-roster practice time due to a late spring sports calendar and had to hit the ground running, but Coach Jan Christensen said they seemed to be stepping up to the challenge. “We played the (Red Oak) tournament without three of our starters, basically, and we won it. So the kids are stepping up and doing the job that’s being asked,” he said. “It’s only going to make us stronger in the long run.” Stronger and more flexible are the two things Christensen said he’s looking for from his players. With a handful of established starters, some in new positions though, and a lot of raw but promising younger girls, the Fillies will have to embrace a system that moves players around the field and the batting lineup according to situation. Christensen said it will be vital for his girls to find that see SHENANDOAH SB, Page 12

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SUMMER SPORTS

4 June 2014

The Valley News

Trojans in the fight to make some noise By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

Tough games and rough outcomes have been plentiful for the Essex baseball team over the last couple of years, but Coach Tom Foutch said this group of Trojans would never let that enter into their thinking while they’re on the field. “This team never quits,” Foutch said. “I think they’ve shown that numerous times in the past and they showed it the other night.” The “other night” Foutch was referring to was their game against Corner Conference contender Fremont-Mills, where the Trojans trailed by 10 runs, but managed to uncork a nine-run, two-inning streak of their own to keep the contest alive. Although they didn’t come back all the way for the win, the steadiness and determination they showed in the effort spoke volumes to their potential, Foutch said. But as the Trojans look to develop that potential, particularly on the mound, they also have a core group of seniors that Foutch wants to see rise to the occasion of their final high school season. Zach Dailey is one of the best catchers in the Corner Conference, he said, and classmates Jacob Ohnmacht (first base), Matt Lundgren (second base), Tucker Scott (shortstop) and Tyler Dalley (third base) give the Essex boys a solid, experienced infield to back up budding aces on the mound. Center fielder Jacob Jones, also a senior, not only returns range and glove work to helm the outfield, but was one of the most prolific base runners and stealers in the state last year. Jones finding his way to and through the bags will be a huge part of the team’s hopes for a turnaround campaign, just as the continued development of talented sophomore ESSEX BASEBALL...Front row, left to right: Zach Dailey, Matt Lundgren, Tucker Scott, Dakota Davis, Jacob Jones, Jacob Ohnmacht see ESSEX BB, Page 13

Back row, left to right: Chris Hendon, Cody McClintock, Alex Dailey, Ian Isaacson, Dylan Buick, Nathaniel Martin, Chase Hadden, Shane Franks

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The Valley News

SUMMER SPORTS

June 2014 5

Pitching will be key to Trojanette defense aim By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

The downside of having a talented young starting pitcher is that someday, probably before you know it, she’ll be gone and a replacement might not be readily at hand. First-year Essex softball coach Jon Denton was presented with that particular challenge upon inheriting a Trojanette squad sans five-year starting hurler Haley Fundermann and an obvious fill-in for her talents. “We’ve got girls that are capable of being really, really good pitchers but they just need to work, they need experience, they just need time on the mound,” said Denton. Early in the season, junior Amber Ohnmacht was getting the call from Denton, but junior Sara Skalberg was bringing back a bit of experience from last year and eighth-grader Daiton Martin had been impressive for not only her ability, but her poise on the hill. Denton said his rotation needed first and foremost to find a way not to issue so many walks, but that they had put in the off-season work and were all bringing great attitudes to their tasks. “We’ve got good defense behind us, some veteran players, that my stress is to make them beat us and not beat ourselves,” he said. Heading that lineup of veteran players anchoring the infield are seniors Skylar Ross, Regan Burns and Seana Perkins. Denton said he’s looking for them to step up and take over the leadership reins of a team that shared a piece of the conference crown last year but lost key players beyond their five-year ace. ESSEX SOFTBALL...Front row, left to right: Seana Perkins, Skylar Ross, Regan Burns Middle row, left to right: Keely York, Destiny Archer, Ashlyn Keeler, Sara Skalberg, Kaitlyn Kelley, Ciara Burnison, Daiton Martin Back row, left to right: Ausha Gay, Hannah Stanley, Bethany Johnson, Kym Graham, Amber Ohnmacht, Jescenia Moseley

see ESSEX SB, Page 13

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SUMMER SPORTS

6 June 2014

The Valley News

Cowboys have big talent, fresh faces By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

The spring-to-summer athletic season transition isn’t really a transition at all, it’s more of an interstate pile-up. No one knows and is more challenged by that fact than Sidney baseball coach Treigh Crouch. With a core group of his players still competing in both track and golf as baseball pre-season practices took off in early May, Crouch found himself struggling to get his entire squad on the diamond at the same time. As the season started and some of those players just coming off regional tournaments or even a trip to the state track meet, he had to work quickly to try and get everybody caught up. “Baseball isn’t a sport of athleticism or how good you are, it’s a sport of repetition,” he said. “The best players are the ones with the most repetitions. MLB, that’s why they play 162 games, because you’re not going to be good every day and you have to have that average.” This year, that applies not only to the seasoned, multisport veterans leading the charge to get Sidney back on top of the Corner Conference, but to a big crop of youngsters launched into starting roles as their raw talent is still being molded into competitive skill. Guiding the youth-heavy Cowboys through the quickcurve learning process will be seniors Chris Osborn and Connor Nennemann. Osborn, one of the best all-around hitters in the conference last year at a .467 average and ridiculous .767 slugging percentage, will handle the shortstop position and come in to pitch occasionally. Nennemann will be right at the top of the rotation with junior Jacob Cain, pa- SIDNEY BASEBALL...Front row, left to right: Christian Slater, Weston Doty, Chris Osborn, Connor Nennemann, Brad Clark, Cody Dupre trolling center field, also a big part of the Sidney offense and Back row, left to right: Coach Treigh Crouch, Caleb Behrends, Ramon Gonzalez, Emmett Gilson, Cameron Whitehead, Sergio Rodriguez, a solid, steadying presence to help the young guys settle in. Jake Cain, Michael Coates, Coach Aaron Lang. Cain and classmate Michael Coates are two of the best players in the Corner. Actually, Crouch – with as much objectivity as he could muster – said he believes they are the two best, possessed not only of the hardest arms on the hill, but bats to back it up. As sophomores last year, Cain hit .349 and carried a 3.38 ERA with 52 strikeouts and Coates had a .322 average with a power-packed .522 slugging percentage thanks to four doubles, three triples and a homer and held opposing batters to a paltry .163 average. see SIDNEY BB, Page 13

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The Valley News

SUMMER SPORTS

June 2014 7

Sidney loaded with youth and experience By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

SIDNEY SOFTBALL...Front row, left to right: Kayleigh Hutt, Sarah Daly, Zoe England, Lindie Strickler, Taylor Holt, Quinn Sheldon, Shea Lynn Sears Back row, left to right: Coach Lindsay Holt, Tayte Smith, Grace Foote, Autumn Graham, Presley Hardy, Jolean McClane, Cassidy Hobbie, Kenna Nennemann, Ruth Ellen Gregory, Lexy Larsen, Liz Lang, Coach Kent Larsen

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As is the case with a number of area softball and baseball teams, the Sidney Cowgirls have a small nucleus of seasoned seniors orbited by a host of talented underclassmen. The difference in Sidney is that many of their youngsters have varsity seasons under their belts to boot. “Defensively, we’re pretty solid,” said Coach Kent Larsen. “We’re awful young but a lot of these girls have played a long time. They’ve started as eighth graders so, while we’re young in age, we’ve still got a lot of experience.” With speed and quickness and, three wins and no losses into the season, a lot of different girls stepping up at different times, they’re pretty balanced on offense as well, Larsen added. The biggest thing they need to incorporate early in the campaign is to be a bit more patient at the plate and wait for good pitches to put into play, he said. One of the best at that is senior Ruth Ellen Gregory. With power and patience to spare, Gregory brings back a teamleading .352 batting average and stout .500 slugging rate. Beyond her prowess at the plate and leadership, she’s arguably the best first baseman in the Corner Conference, Larsen said. see SIDNEY SB, Page 14

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SUMMER SPORTS

8 June 2014

The Valley News

FREMONT-MILLS BASEBALL... Front row, left to right: Cameron Pitcher, Chris Goodman, Lane Goodman, Andrew Hontz, Dontae Luke, Jessie Gochat. Back row, left to right: Austin Switzer, Beau Malcom, Colton Dodson, Kenzy Lang, Jason Rusten, Broc Hansen, Brandon Meston, Nate Hardisty, Derek Swanson. Not pictured: Dakota Moss-Ericson, Frank Faust

Knights seeking to turn second to one into second to none By JASON GLENN

East Mills in an 18-3 rout. Behind the moundwork and leadership of lone senior Austin Switzer and junior Mackenzy Lang, the Knights are off to a swinging start. Like most of the F-M boys’ teams this year, a dearth of seniors seems not to be affecting their effectiveness or ambition and signals good things not only in the making but also in the future. Lang is one of five juniors seeing plenty of playing time for the Knights. Classmates Brandon Meston, Broc Hansen, Derek Swanson and Chris Goodman also swell the upper class ranks. Among the sophomore crowd, Colton Dodson, Jason Rusten and Lane Goodman see plenty of time on the field and freshman Beau Malcom is stepping into the scene as well. The Knights even have an eighth-grade designated hitter, junior high student Andrew Hontz getting a pair of

opportunities at the plate in a crucial 4-0 win over Sidney last week. In that particular game, Lang went the full seven frames on the mound, pitching the shutout and allowing just two hits, three walks and striking out a conference-high 13 Cowboys along the way. Switzer got the W against Essex for his 3 2/3 innings of work. By all rights, the Knights could have gone 6-0 to start the season, but back-to-back games against Clarinda Academy and Tri-Center were called off due to last week’s storm. The Knights’ lone loss thus far came on June 6 at Stanton, when they led early but saw the Vikings rip off seven runs in the bottom of the fourth to leap ahead. The final score of that game was 10-6 and Stanton lost by a whisker, 7-6, to Nishnabotna on June 9 in Hamburg.

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No one came closer to knocking off Nishnabotna during their 2013 perfect Corner Conference run than FremontMills, playing the Blue Devils to a 5-4 loss on June 4. And, at 17-7, the Knights were the only other conference squad to post a winning final record by a long shot. As they say, though, that was then and this is now and F-M has had to absorb the loss of a number of huge assets, on the mound, in the field and at the plate. But they seem to be handling the transition just fine. At press time, the Knights were 4-1 with three conference wins and had absolutely exploded on offense in two of those matchups, topping Essex 22-12 on May 27 and turning around two days later to make four-inning work of

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SUMMER SPORTS

The Valley News

June 2014 9 Text

FREMONT-MILLS SOFTBALL...Front row, left to right: Sabrina Hernandez, Kalyn Madison, Sydney Esary. Middle row, left to right: Addie Kemp, Anna Lemonds, Kynzie Fichter, Jordan Morrical, Ashley Rysten, Tiffany Meyer, Taryn Williams. Back row, left to right: Kayleigh Cole, Kendall Blake, Katie Blake, Clara Schaaf, Kelsey Hurley, Delaney Langfelt, Haylee Chambers, Katie Weitzki, Shaylee Frost. Not pictured: Madison Powers.

Lady Knights want Corner Conference crown back By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

Hmmm…did not winning the 2013 Corner Conference softball title after five straight seasons atop the standings have any effect on the Lady Knights’ thinking and preparation coming into this year? “Definitely,” said Coach Kyle Fichter, leaving little doubt. “To be second and have beaten the top two and then lose to Villisca twice, we put ourselves in a bad spot where we kept relying on too many things to happen for us. It’s definitely a motivating factor.” With a bunch of big, not-very-close wins to start 2014, it’s obvious the F-M girls want that crown back and don’t want it to be a close race. But as good as they’ve been out

of the gate, Fichter said after a lengthy, Blue Oval-culminating track season, they were still just getting warmed up. “I think in a couple weeks time you’ll see what we really are,” he said. “We’re still getting into the softball mode right at the moment. We haven’t had a lot of practice.” They might not have had a lot of practice, but they got plenty of on-the-job training with a packed schedule over the first two weeks that ended in a five-team round robin tournament on their home turf. That benchmark point was what Fichter said should herald the arrival of the Lady Knights’ full force. Putting their full force into the team’s mound work is a duo of experienced seniors, Sydney Esary and Madison Powers. With two of the top records in the Corner Conference and a combined total of more than 150 innings, the

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senior hurlers will be tasked with keeping the F-M defense steady and serving up pitches that lead to putout opportunities for the solid lineup minding the field behind them. While there are established players in some of the infield spots, there is also a mandate in the program that the girls be willing and able to take on any assignment, Fichter said. Scenarios will dictate the arrangements and/or shifts, he said, such as junior superstar second baseman Taryn Williams moving over to short if a lot of balls seem to be heading to the left side on a given day. Freshman Kynzie Fichter is getting a lot of time at first base but Powers, when she’s not on the mound could be there instead. Junior Sabrina Hernandez could also fill in see FM SB, Page 14

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SUMMER SPORTS

10 June 2014

The Valley News

Blue Devils looking to stay on top of game By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

A spotless 14-0 run through the Corner Conference calendar got the Nishnabotna baseball team their crown last year, but Coach Blair Holman said obsessing about perfection is not part of this year’s plan. “Goal No. 1 at the beginning of every season is to win the conference,” he said. “Whether we go undefeated or not, that doesn’t really matter.” The Blue Devils were hit hard by graduation, losing a quintet that included some of the best bats and arms in

the area, but are focused on reloading, not rebuilding. Holman said even though the program lost some longtime, familiar names, the baseball culture is still strong at Nish and up-andcoming sophomores, freshmen and even an eighthgrader or two, are ready for their time to take the mantel. “These kids are capable, absolutely. They know that, they know what they are capable of doing,” he said. Leading the team into the next chapter will be seniors Robby Bruce, Lucas Pauley and Colton Holman. Bruce, NISHNABOTNA BASEBALL...Front row, left to right: Colton Holman, Lucas Pauley, Robby Bruce the stalwart behind the plate, Middle row, left to right: Matt Stenzel, Dillon Sebastian, Austin Thompson, Trey Athen, Chad Blank, Jared Williamson, Josh Bockert, Treyton Gubser will be trying to regain his

see NISHNABOTNA BB, Page 14

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SUMMER SPORTS

The Valley News

June 2014 11

Lady Blue Devils turning the page By JASON GLENN Sports Editor

NISHNABOTNA SOFTBALL...Front row: Christa McCall Middle row, left to right: Mellissa Cooper, Kennedy Hughes, Sam Moran, Alexis McQueen Back row, left to right: Zoe Moores, Taylor Stanton, Blu Ossian, Emily Welch, Madi Moores

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From your neighborhood bank. Community isn’t just defined by a dot on the map. It can be defined by shared values. Ideas. And dreams. And the people who come together to get those dreams done. So even though community is more than a location, we’re glad that we are in yours.

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When you’re looking to close the book on a rough campaign and start a fresh chapter for a program, the first thing you need is a motto. With “New Year, New Season, New Beginning,” the Nishnabotna softball team has set the tone for a bright future that commences right now. Of course, the other important things you need are a group of positive, talented and motivated players and a coach with the vision and determination to bring them into that bold potential. “We’re looking to have a good, strong season and hopefully build a strong program compared to losing numbers in the past,” said new Blue Devil skipper Dee Owen. “There are a lot of seventh graders coming up that are very active in softball and we’re looking forward to that.” Before those budding stars arrive, though, senior Christa McCall will bear the weight of leadership as the only recent graduate on the roster. Holding down first base and bringing power to the plate, McCall’s fiery disposition and positive attitude should do wonders helping the younger girls transition not only to the varsity game but to a new outlook. “She is a great leader for our team. She keeps the girls motivated, she keeps them steady,” Owen said. “She’s a very strong player and a very strong hitter.” The Blue Devil youth movement is also evident by the fact that there are only a handful of juniors as well. Sam Moran takes over pitching duties and has done a great job stepping into a larger role with the team, Owen said. Mo

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SUMMER SPORTS

SHEN BB Continued from page 2

his freshman season, shuts down almost anything that comes his way at shortstop and is as steady as they come at the plate, regardless of whether it’s 0-0 in the bottom of the first or a 3-2 count in the last at-bat of the game. Rendon probably has the team’s strongest arm as well as every other toll a well-rounded ball player needs, can drive the ball all over the field and dominates on the mound. Lindburg, though without the level of experience of his classmates, is a solid first baseman and pitcher and has done some clutch hitting early in the season. Behind those three comes a pretty sharp drop-off to the sophomore and freshman and even junior high ranks, but Roberts said after a loss to Lewis Central that the confidence and cohesiveness really seemed to be coming along well. “I’m happy that our heads never went down, even when they were scoring runs, even when I had to go out to the mound. They were still talking,” he said. “They were more like a team tonight than they have been this year.” Making up the rest of that new look Mustang squad are sophomore second baseman Jake Johnson, actually with a good amount of varsity time under his belt from a big freshman year. Another sophomore, Spencer Rice, is taking over third base and adjusting to the next level and, speaking of next levels, eighthgrader Kyle Owens seems to have leapfrogged a couple with his starting spot at catcher and all the infield responsibilities that come with it. When Lindburg is on the mound, sophomores Issaih Reed and Morgan

Moe will get turns at first, and freshman Jordan Miller, fresh off an auspicious varsity track debut, will take over short when Baker hits the hill to pitch. Miller or classmate Devon Perkins will fill in left field and sophomore Chase Hiser or junior Jonah Baldwin will occupy right, while Rendon makes center his home when not on the mound. Freshman Bridger Nebel could see time in the outfield as well and another high school newbie, Ryan Ruzek, early in the 2014 campaign got his first call up the hill to face live batters in competition. One recurring problem the Mustangs seemed to be facing was getting out of jams, particularly against stout Hawkeye 10 teams. Roberts said learning how to knuckle down in those tense situations was critical to the team’s hopes. “We have to learn how to close the book on that inning, keep our focus all the way through the finish line and then move on,” he said. On the offensive side of the ball, the Shen boys don’t have quite the depth of speed they did last year, but still a good amount and will try to exploit the basepaths as often as they can reach them. To do that, Roberts said, they can’t be down a bunch of runs and playing desperate catch-up. They also need to realize that with last year’s turnaround came new attention and things could get a bit tougher before they get easier. “In three of the games, we’ve seen pretty good pitchers and that’s going to happen with the success we had last year we’re going to start seeing better pitching,” Roberts said. “I told the kids that’s a respect thing. It’s a good thing.”

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right chemistry and combination of fielders attuned to one another quickly if they hope to make a run through the schedule. With all the different off-season workouts and other distractions, summer can be a grueling grind but all come together if the team comes first. “You may not find it until the end of the season. You’ve got injuries to contend with, you’ve got sickness, other activities. Trying to find the mesh that, even when somebody’s gone, somebody else can step in. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. Trying to do it from the mound will be juniors Jordan Major and Devon Wood. With Major throwing over 110 innings last year and Wood accumulating more than 40, they each have plenty of history on the hill to be comfortable and prepared. Helping Major will be the fact that her bullpen partner is also her battery mate, Wood doubling as the Fillies’ starting catcher when she not up in the rotation. Senior Kaylee Birt, the heart of the team, moves around the horn from her shortstop spot last year to the hot corner at third and will utilize her clutch batting skills for the team’s benefit. Taking her place at short is freshman McKaya O’Neil, who received her varsity baptism over the winter with a great basketball season and possesses all the natu-

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ral talents to become a standout in the Hawkeye 10 over the next four years. Sophomore JaCee Hogue, who started in right field and showed great tenacity in 2013, moves in to second base for this campaign and another freshman basketball stud, Logan Ehlers, will put her lanky frame to good use at first, stretching for putout throws and adjusting to the intense competition of the Hawk 10 softball powerhouses. The outfield is one of those places where Christensen has been and will be experimenting with combinations to find the best fit. Senior Avery Grebert has a pretty firm grip on left field, but her younger sister, sophomore Ariel, will likely split time with senior Abby Peterson and also spend some time behind the plate when Wood is on the mound. Junior Stacie Fischer and freshman Sydnie Nothwehr trade off the responsibility of right field as the hunt continues for the right mix at the right time. The biggest thing Christensen said he expects and has already seen from his players is to accept their roles on a given night for the good of the team. They might just be there for defense or to pinch run, or even just to cheer loudly from the bench and be ready if a starter goes down. “If it’s not your day, that doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow,” he said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for the team at that moment in time.”

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Cody McClintock in left field could herald the start of something new. In just his first varsity year of baseball, but already well seasoned in overall competition, sophomore Ian Isaacson has been picking up the game quickly and fills the final slot in right field, Foutch said. Of course, the culmination of any Trojan turnaround ambitions will hinge on how their pitchers are able to find and maintain the strike zone, not just accumulating more and more Ks, but making batters put the ball in play to one of the experienced infielders ready to fill another entry in the book. Foutch said the previous mound experience of seniors Scott, Ohnmacht and Shenandoah transfer Dalley should help them shorten the learning curve, but also noted sophomore Alex Dailey as a big potential source of innings on the mound. Beyond that, the coach said he was earnestly seeking new, undeveloped arms to give the hill a try and grow a new rotation of aces for the years to come, holding a kind of ongoing open audition for anyone on the Trojan roster. “See what we have coming up for the future and try to give some of these kids an opportunity to just throw,� Foutch said of his aim for the casting call. “Hopefully, it’ll help them out and help us out at the same time.� The result of any measure of success in setting up a solid situation in that area, Foutch added, would be to transform a team that admirably does not throw in the towel when they’re behind to one that knows they can jump on top and stay there. “Once we improve on our pitching, that’ll give us some confidence and I guess that would be our long-term goal,� he said. “If we get some confidence out there, they’re a fantastic team. I’m excited to see what we’re capable of.�

Each a big threat at the plate, Ross helped out behind the plate at catcher early in the season before retunring to her familiar shortstop position, Burns brought her strong fielding skills back to the hot corner and Perkins again gave the Trojanettes one of the best gloves at first. Second base, Denton said, would be a bit of a platoon position with Skalberg, Martin and multi-talented freshman Ciara Burnison rotating according to pitching opportunities and situation.

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Crouch said Sidney’s strongest defensive set-up will be when Cain is on the mound, Coates is behind the plate as his battery mate and Osborn is locking down short. Junior Emmett Gilson and his .966 fielding mark will hold down first base and help ensure infield grounders end up as an out in his glove. The remainder of the Cowboy lineup

June 2014 13

Another strong returning player, junior Kym Graham, leads the Essex outfield and brings the second-best batting average back to the offensive effort. Center fielder Graham has a sure glove, live arm and batted a dependable .338 behind Perkins’ .349, but also possesses power with a .500 slugging percentage, just 27 points shy of Ross’ team-leading tally. Sophomore Bethany Johnson, at the tail end of a breakout varsity sports year, patrols left field and brings a great lefthanded bat to the plate and right field, like second, will feature a trio of interchangeable players, including Ohnmacht, Burnison and freshman Jescenia Mosley, yet

another of a great crop of all-around Trojanette athletes in their debut high school campaign. Getting those freshmen comfortable at the new level of competition, establishing the upper class leadership dynamic and, above all, achieving consistency on the mound are the three huge factors in the Trojanettes’ design to defend their title, Denton said, but added that none of it comes without finding a mesh among all the team members. “Building a program is much more than varsity wins,� he said. “Chemistry is huge.�

takes a precipitous dip into the freshman and eighth-grade ranks. Flanking Nennemann in the pasture will be Sergio Rodriguez in left and fellow frosh Christian Slater in right. Rodriguez has a strong arm, Crouch said, and could turn into the next great Sidney pitcher and Slater has grown up around the game and displays talent and understanding beyond his years. Bradley Clark, who saw time as a junior high guy last year, will take charge of second base. Relying on his bug guns for consis-

tency and production, Crouch said he expects to see a pretty dramatic learning curve for his underclassmen and will challenge them to focus on the all-important details of baseball fundamentals. He knows they’re coming in raw, but he said he wants to use that to establish solid practices for theirs and the team’s future. “I’ll tear apart every single swing because, especially with not having a habit, I don’t want them to create habits that aren’t going to be useful to their game,� Crouch said.

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“That helps the infielders because they know if they make bad throws she can dig them out,” he said. The other Sidney senior, pitcher Tayler Holt, is probably the most critical component to the Cowgirls’ hopes this season. Eternally upbeat and solid on the mound, Holt has started the 2014 campaign strong, not just amassing strikeouts but getting the ball consistently over the plate so those fielders can do their jobs. Between Gregory and Holt, the nucleus has truly helped bring the disparate team together so far, Larsen said. “They’ve done a great job taking the young girls under their wings and being really encouraging,” he said. “We have no juniors so there’s a big separation, but you wouldn’t know it.” Sophomores, they’ve got. And their names are plenty familiar to fans across the spectrum of area sports – Lexy Larsen, Quinn Sheldon, Shea-Lynn Sears, Autumn Graham, Kenna Nennemann. Larsen was the third-leading Cowgirl batter as a freshman, carrying a .351 average and, with her blazing speed, will steal a whole lot of bases and track down a whole lot of fly balls in left field. Sheldon is already a seasoned catcher and has kicked off the year with big numbers and production at the plate. Sears has also been making solid contact in at-bats and has taken over the hot corner to shore up the infield. Graham is in her third varsity season as the starting second baseman and looks to up her offensive output. And Nennemann steps up to a starting slot for the first time, big things expected out of her down the road, Larsen commented. Among the freshmen, Zoe England and Lindie Strickler have seen the most playing time, splitting center field duties between them and, in a seven-strong eighth grade group, Liz Lang has shown huge potential stepping into the wild and wooly world of shortstop. While the encouragement from the top down has been a great thing for team chemistry, Larsen said, he also noted that the depth of talent on the bench has been beneficial to a friendly and fierce competition for starting spots. “A lot of times we’ve had numbers, but we only had 10 that were able to play varsity. This year, we’ve got quite a few girls that can play varsity so the competition is pretty good,” Larsen said. “Some of these older girls know that if they don’t keep working, these younger girls can take their spot at any second. That’s made us better. Competition just makes you better.”

at first, but will likely spend most of her time at third base. And Delaney Langfelt or Esary might head to second base whenever Williams is moved to short. When she’s not, sophomore Haylee Chambers holds down the left side. “Pretty much all of our positions are that way. I mean, we don’t have just a first baseman or just a shortstop,” Fichter said. “If you’re an infielder, you play all of them and that’s just the way we do it.” In the outfield, Powers, Esary and

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form and power swinging the bat over it, Holman said. Frustrated a bit in the early season, he had a big night against Sidney and seemed to be on track. “Every time he was up there, he hit the ball hard and that’ll do nothing but raise his confidence,” said the coach. “He’s a rock behind the plate and we’re looking for him to produce for us.” Pauley, a .350 hitter last year, returns to second base to anchor the infield and Colton Holman will hold down first base when he’s not taking a turn on the mound. Restoring the rotation will be the biggest key to the Devils’ success this season and junior Tyler Beam rises to the top as the team’s most experienced and proven hurler. Beam, not an overpowering pitcher

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ran will help develop the younger pitchers and likely share the mound more as the season progresses. Melissa Cooper, another rising senior, will handle left field duties and use her potent arm to keep runners at bay. Sophomores Alexis McQueen and Kennedy Hughes occupy the middle infield for Nish and are both strong hitters with good defensive range and instincts. McQueen will probably see some time on the mound and Owen said Hughes provides a fantastic ex-

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junior speedster Kelsey Hurley will patrol, while eighth-grader Clara Schaaf has bumped up and already shown signs of great ability in the pasture. It all adds up to a scary combination of talent and depth that has the team not just hopeful but determined to recapture past glory. And that’s not even talking about their big-time offense. In that regard, the biggest hole to fill for the Lady Knights is the graduation of one of the school’s all-time great catchers and hitters, Kendall Fichter. Filling in amply well early in the season has been senior Kalyn Madison, but in keeping with the multi-disciplined theme, Coach Fichter

said he could also Langfelt and Hernandez behind the plate as well. With all the games the F-M girls play in an average season, more than all but a few teams in southwest Iowa, a little change from time to time can be a good thing, Fichter added. “Moving kids around, you’re not playing the same thing every day, is something to look forward to,” he said. “Pitching and catching, it’s good to have consistency. But in the field, I think they kind of like the idea that ‘One day I’m going to play first base, the next day I’m going to play center field.’ Something different.”

but steady, consistent and willing to let his teammates get their hands on the ball to make outs, went 4-0 in 2013 with a 3.32 ERA and held opposing hitters to just a .228 batting average. When not holding down the mound, he’ll be handling the hot corner at third. Sophomores make up the bulk of the Nish roster and two who have already made names for themselves in a variety of Corner Conference sports will make their way to the hill. Chad Blank will use his quickness to hold down short and jump into the pitching mix and Austin Thompson will primarily patrol center field but follow in his older brother Andrew’s footsteps on the bump. Josh Haning, another second-year bringing back some varsity experience, will take over left field and classmates Jared Williamson and Eric Charbonneau will fill in at first base and shortstop, respectively,

when the main caretakers of those positions are on pitching detail. Freshman Matt Stenzel has already shown both promise and passion early in his Blue Devil career and will bring a big bat and deep glove to bear at third base and eighth-grader Josh Lehman showed no fear in his varsity Corner debut against arch-rival Sidney, roaming right field and extending at-bats like an old pro. Holman said he fully expects his young but talented, confident and motivated corps to be right up there, contending with the Cowboys, Fremont-Mills and Stanton for another crown. While he’s not concerned with perfection, he said preparation and execution are what could tip the scales in any team’s favor. “You’re going to have to show up every night,” Holman said. “Just like anything that you do, you can take a loss if you don’t show up ready to play.”

ample of hustle and dedication whenever she sprints, dives and digs for anything that comes near. Similarly aggressive is freshman Maryn Phillips, the Lady Devils’ third baseman who, Owen said, is also not the least bit shy about hitting the dirt to try and make a big play. Another hustling freshman, centerfielder Madi Moores has had a wealth of varsity experience in just her first high school year and brings great expectations with her. Freshman Emily Welch will take over catcher and bring a stout bat to the Nish offense and one of the truly new guard, eighth-grader Zoe Moores will platoon behind the plate and blaze a trail

for that junior high crowd moving up the ranks. Even though some of their early games this season haven’t exactly looked positive on paper, Owen said the revamp is going just fine and the growth and improvement she sees on a daily basis won’t take long to pay dividends. “They are very excited. They have yet to have their heads down,” she said. “I don’t think the score of either of our first two games is indicative of how they played. They improved immensely from the first game, leaps and bounds. Everything that I coached them, they listened and applied.”


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