The Glenwood softball team returns all but three players from last year’s team.
Ram head coach Tim Stanton called that depth of talent a good thing and perhaps a not so good thing.
“We have a lot of kids coming back with experience and a lot of young kids coming back with experience. We have a lot of decisions to make,” Stanton said.
“They can be,” Stanton added. “With the right attitudes.”
Stanton’s right attitudes will likely start with multi-year starters and team leaders Molly Bryan and Ana Van Scoy. Bryan, a junior pitcher, and Van Scoy, a senior shortstop, will lead the Rams on the field and in the dugout.
“Their leadership is critical,” Stanton said. “It takes more than their talent to help us. We have to have leadership not just from not only our older girls but our experienced girls and we have to be willing to follow them. If we have that we can have a lot of success.”
Bryan is among the top hurlers in southwest Iowa. She set a new school-record with 243 strikeouts last season while going 15-10 in the circle while hitting .566 with 31 runs driven in.
“She is probably every bit as good as any pitcher in the conference,” said Stanton. “As a total package for her pitching and her hitting, she’s far and away the best all-around pitcher in the conference.”
Van Scoy is a defensive stalwart who hit .495 last season, drove in 19 runs and stole a team-leading 11 bases.
The Rams, 20-11 overall and 9-9 and in the Hawkeye 10 Conference a year ago, return seven position players this season but Stanton cautions against any starter feeling confident their spot is secure.
“We have a lot of returning starters from last year but that doesn’t mean they’ll be starters this year,” said Stanton. “Everyone knows our junior varsity lost two games and our freshmen lost one, and it’s been made clear if you started for this team last year that’s probably easier than starting for the team this year. We have a lot of decisions to make and a lot of battles to see how things shake out.”
As it is, the Rams tentatively return six starters that hit at least .293 on a team that scored 167 runs and had a .432 on-base percentage. As good as his team was in getting on base in spots last year, Stanton sees more pop and more power from his team at the plate so far this season.
“We were kind of young last year so we kind of just dinged the ball around here and there,” said Stanton. “Now we’re seeing all those girls are knocking the ball of the fence now and we’re flirting with home runs. I knew we could get there and we are getting there. The girls have gotten bigger and stronger and we’ve worked at it. These girls play other sports so they get bigger and stronger year round and that’s paying off now.”
That athleticism didn’t quite translate in the Rams’ stolen base numbers last season when they swiped just 55 bases as a team. With a year of growth in the experience and speed departments, Stanton thinks that number could jump significantly this season.
“I always like to steal bases,” said Stanton, acknowledging his stolen base numbers were down last season. “I sometimes get hassled for not bunting enough but if people pay attention to how we run they realize you don’t have to bunt if you can steal a base. It’s a waste a time if you can steal second and keep the bat in that girl’s hand with a runner in scoring position.”
A glance at Hawkeye 10 rosters reveals a who’s who of strong pitching. Creston’s Madison Frain (28-4, 259 strikeouts), Harlan’s Brooke Schaben (24-13, 191 strikeouts) and Samantha Claussen (20-13, 139 strikeouts) all return to torment conference hitters this season. Taking into account his own pitcher, Bryan, Stanton calls the collection of hurlers in the conference among the best in the state.
Last season Glenwood won seven of its final eight regular season games with strong defense and clutch hitting before ending the season with a disappointing 4-1 loss to Frain’s Panthers in the district opener. Barring any unforeseen obstacles, Stanton thinks this season’s success could also come down to another late season match up with Creston.
“I’ll be disappointed if its not coming down to that home game with Creston right before districts for the conference championship,” said Stanton. “That’s saying a lot and there are a lot of good teams but my expectations for this team is extremely high and they know that. We’re pretty focused on it. You can only do so much as a coach and the kids are working hard at it.”