Consistency key for T-Birds
Softball season starts April 27
By Greg Seubert
It’s been nearly 700 days since the Iola-Scandinavia softball team has played a game.
That game, a 7-3 loss to Mishicot in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final, ended a 2019 season that saw the Thunderbirds win their first Central Wisconsin Conference championship since 2005.
COVID-19 prevented spring sports programs across the state from fielding a team last year, but the T-Birds are back this year with a schedule that opens Tuesday, April 27, with a home game against Bonduel.
“I think we have a fairly athletic group of girls and several of them have played plenty of summer softball and participated in other sports,” coach Tom Anderson said. “As it always goes with softball, having a solid pitcher and catcher is key. Senior Lizzie Jones and freshmen Maddie Much and Julia Munoz have pitched in the past and should provide us with good pitching. Also, sophomore Jaelyn Sivertson is working on pitching and could prove to be a solid pitcher. Returning junior catcher Alexa Christoph is sidelined with a leg injury, so sophomore Marin Hoyord will step in as catcher.”
Whether the T-Birds are successful will depend on consistency on offense and defense, according to Anderson.
“Our success will depend on our batters getting hits when we have runners in scoring position,” he said. “We are currently hitting the ball well in practice. Hopefully, that will transfer to the game.
“We are currently struggling on defense, which includes fielding the ball and making the throw on a consistent basis,” he added. “I associate that with us being so young and not having that sense of urgency yet. Defensively, we need to make what I call are the simple plays. When we make a mistake, which we will, we need to forget about it and move on.”
The T-Birds have to replace three players that would have been seniors on the 2020 team in Mackenzie Kielblock, Hannah Melum and Lyncoln Podgorny. Kielblock and Melum were first-team all-conference players as juniors in 2019 and Kielblock was named the CWC East Division’s player of the year.
“Our goal for this season is to be competitive in each game and improve throughout the season,” Anderson said. “If we compete and improve throughout the season, we will be OK. We have 26 varsity games and over 20 junior varsity games scheduled this season in just over six weeks. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we can get most of them in.”
Five players back this season saw considerable varsity action two years ago, including seniors Katie Cherek (shortstop), Jones (pitcher/first base) and Taylor Kielblock (second base); and juniors Christoph (catcher) and Makayla Much (center field).
Seniors Payton Kielblock and Anna Rustad and junior Ella Gullixon saw limited playing time in the outfield in 2019 and are looking for more time on the field, Anderson said.
“We have very good depth this year, which should create interesting competition for varsity playing time,” he said. “With the missed 2020 season, what will be interesting is that we have 16 sophomores and freshmen – eight in each grade – who have not played high school softball. However, this group is very athletic and a few of them have seen some success on their volleyball and basketball teams.
“We have several girls working hard to earn playing time at those position,” he said. “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. There is playing time available. The question is who will step up and take advantage of it?”
The T-Birds will compete in the CWC’s East Division. Iola-Scandinavia won the division two years ago with an 11-1 mark, followed by Amherst (10-2), Shiocton (7-5), Wittenberg-Birnamwood (6-6), Weyauwega-Fremont (3-8), Bonduel (3-9) and Menominee Indian (1-10).
Anderson expects the division race to be up in the air, especially because teams didn’t play last year.
“It is so hard to tell which sophomores and freshmen from 2019 who are now juniors and seniors have continued to grow and improve,” he said. “Most important, you have the unknown factor of a group of freshmen and sophomore girls in the conference who have not played any high school softball.
“It should be an interesting and exciting year,” he said. “I think we are all happy to be back playing softball.”
Iola-Scandinavia Softball Team 2021 Schedule
Tuesday, April 27 – vs. Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, April 30 – at Rosholt, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 3 – at Menominee Indian, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 4 – vs. Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 6 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 7 – at Bonduel, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 8 – at Tri-County Invitational, Plainfield, 9 a.m.
Monday, May 10 – at Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 13 – vs. Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 15 – vs. Waupaca, 10 a.m.; vs. Marathon, 1:30 p.m.
Monday, May 17 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 18 –at Manawa, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 20 – vs. St. Mary Catholic, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 21 – at Winneconne, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 24 – vs. Menominee Indian, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 25 – vs. Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 27 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, May 28 – at Westfield, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 1 – vs. Amherst, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 3 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, June 4 – vs. Wautoma, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, June 7 – at Almond-Bancroft, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 8 – vs. Athens, 4:30 p.m.