On paper, Glenwood softball coach Tim Stanton says this year’s Rams may be his best in his 10 years as head coach.
Potentially, the coach added.
“This should be a very good year for us and it’s also one of the toughest years ever in the conference,” Stanton said. “There’s five teams, five really good teams in our conference and even the teams that aren’t in that top five will give you a pretty tough game. This conference is going to be a tough fight for any team.”
A look at the Rams’ returning roster shows experience and talent at the plate, in the field and in the circle.
The Rams, coming off a 27-9 record last year (15-2 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference) hit .306 as a team and scored 217 runs (6.02 runs per game) last season. Five of the Rams’ top eight hitters and their top pitcher in Molly Bryan return this season.
Stanton admits his one dilemma early in practice has been finding a replacement for four-year starting shortstop Ana VanScoy. Stanton is pondering a move of McKenna Henze from centerfield, where she is an all-conference level performer, to shore up his middle infield. Or does he audition a new shortstop and keep Henze in the outfield?
“It’s a decision I can’t make until we have more practices,” he said.
Replacing Rachelle Martin at catcher will likely be sophomore Bailey Starner, who started on the junior varsity last season and a handful of games on varsity. Stanton said Starner is very talented and has a ton of potential defensively and offensively. If Starner can’t win the job, first baseman Cassie Kruse has caught, and could early in the season until the lineup shakes out.
“Ideally, I would like to see Bailey catch and Cassie stay at first. But if need be, we have candidates to make it work,” Stanton said. “Bailey has worked hard and she can be very good there. But it’s not easy catching Molly.”
Bryan, who went 19-6 a year ago with 1.63 earned run average, had arm issues much of last season but fought through it. Stanton has seen no lingering effects in Bryan this year and senses a stronger, more experienced pitcher after a strong off-season.
“She’s all healed up and she’s been throwing the discus in track and it doesn’t seem to be bothering her. I know I, and she, expects a big year.”
Bryan and Kruse are two of the most feared power hitters in the conference with the two combining for 12 home runs and 56 runs batted in last season. Stanton isn’t worried about teams trying to pitch around the heart of his order.
“If they try and pitch around Cassie, I can bat Molly behind her,” the coach said. “They’re not going to walk Cassie to face Molly and I can put Grace Newman right in there too. No one is going to walk those two to face Grace either. There’s way to organize our lineup to protect them and get pitches.”
Newman, a two-year starter at third base, hit .343 last season with three homers, a team-leading 12 doubles and 25 RBIs.
Stanton doesn’t hesitate when asked how good his team can be.
“Conference champs and possibly go to state,” he said. “But like I said, it’s a five team race for the conference championship with us and Creston at the top of it. But Denison can beat anybody, you can’t ever count Harlan out and Lewis Central will be just as good, they didn’t lose anyone. The conference is stacked.”
With a move up to Class 4A for the Rams and re-districting this season, Stanton said the Rams’ new district could be one of the toughest in the state.
“All those tough schools we see in our conference? They’re all going to probably be lined up in our district,” he said.
Depth won’t be a concern for these Rams. Stanton said he has record numbers out this season, including 30 eighth and ninth graders.
“We’re probably going to have 50 kids on our roster,” he said. “The future looks good. With numbers like that out it just proves the parents have been taking the kids up to Omaha and had them playing in tournaments and that is what’s setting us up for the future. The parents have gone the extra mile to help their kids so when they get up here to high school, they’re ready to play. That leads to success in all of our sports.”
The Rams open their season at A-H-S-T on May 21.