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A look at the 16 area teams as softball postseason nears
PREP SOFTBALL PREVIEW

A look at the 16 area teams as softball postseason nears

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Six weeks sure went by in a flash. Now it is a race to Fort Dodge.

When the Fourth of July weekend simmers down and everyone returns back to work after a vacation day on Monday, the 16 area softball teams will do the same when regional action kicks off on Tuesday.

Class 1A, 2A and 3A will start on Tuesday with Class 4A and 5A getting underway on Thursday. Regional finals for the first three classes will be on Monday, July 12 with the final two classes taking place on Tuesday, July 13.

Here's an in depth look at all 16 teams in the area as they prepare their path forward to be one of the final eight teams.

Newman Catholic 

It has been a rollercoaster last couple of weeks for the Class 1A No. 8 Knights. After a 19-5 start, they closed the regular season at 6-5. Still, if they are ranked higher than North Butler, the regional goes through Mason City.

Newman Catholic earned a bye into the second round and will await the winner of a first round tussle between North Iowa and West Hancock.

In order for a second straight trip to the Class 1A state tournament, the Knights will have to execute better defensively. Their 78 errors are fourth-highest in Region 6 and the most amongst the group of teams above. 500.

Yet the offense has enough firepower at the top of the lineup to combat any defensive miscues, led by the power of Faith Wadle and six players with over 20 RBIs. The team batting average sits at .332 with seven clipping above .300.

Madi Elwood is now front-and-center in the circle with the loss of Leah Martinez. If she struggles and other little things compound into bigger mistakes, Newman Catholic's postseason could be short-lived.

St. Ansgar 

The Saints were brought back down to earth after blowing a 6-0 lead in the regular season finale to Newman Catholic. Still, they were one of the hotter teams as of late by winning six straight and 10 of the last 13 games.

They will open against Northwood-Kensett, a team they just dismantled 19-2 six days ago.

St. Ansgar's recipe for success has been behind the stellar pitching of eighth grader Josie Juhl and putting together plenty of offense to give the right-hander breathing room, led by senior Taylor Hanna's 11 extra base hits, 34 RBIs and a .482 batting average.

Head coach Lance Schutjer has thrown Juhl now twice against Newman Catholic and in meetings versus Riceville and Northwood-Kensett. Will those teams have her figured out? Time will tell.

Beating teams above .500 has been a challenge. The Saints are 4-8 against team with a winning record, 14-1 versus teams with a losing record. If they want to make it to Fort Dodge for the first time in a handful of years, they'll likely have to beat three teams with a winning record.

Northwood-Kensett

Lose to your first round opponent by 17 runs six days ago, anything could happen in the second meeting. Plus, the Vikings have something that St. Ansgar doesn't.

An experienced pitcher that has thrown a lot of innings at the varsity level in Kayla Senne. The right-hander has a blazing fastball and good off-speed pitches to make her game flow. She has eclipsed 750 career strikeouts.

In order for Northwood-Kensett to have a different result in the second meeting, defense will have to be addressed. It had nine errors the first time around. And it will need Senne, Lindsey Moore and Carly Hengesteg to get on base then start moving around with their speed.

Battle-tested would be the best way to describe the Vikings last week, upsetting Newman Catholic, hanging tough with Central Springs before the rain came and coming back to defeat Lake Mills on the road. 

Riceville 

It has been a resurgent year for the Wildcats. They clinched their first winning season in a handful of years, plus their fourth straight campaign with 10 or more wins. They finished runner-up in the Iowa Star-North division.

Now, it is on to winning a postseason game. And the case can be made that Riceville could have an extended stay if things fall into place. 

Sophomore Morgan Fair has been the anchor in the circle, but her inconsistency in big moments at finding the zone or giving up key hits has doomed her. Still, she is capable of having a lights out performance.

The offense shouldn't be a problem, led by the average of Callee Fair, the speed of Josie Gansen  and the extra base hitters of Morgan Fair and Emily Johnson. The Wildcats have also been patient, with 85 walks to 102 strikeouts.

Rockford

As senior shortstop Gabby Keith mentioned, the focus for the Warriors is to have fun. One way to have fun is to pull off an upset.

If Rockford wants to spring an unexpected win over Riceville in the regional opener, it will have to do so with Keith anchoring the offense and the cast around her to deliver big hits. 

Pitching is a major concern for the Warriors. Both of their potential starters – Madelyn Muller and Cameron Williamson – have a combined earned run average of 9.46. Both will need to pitch at their best in the postseason.

West Hancock

The Eagles have the ability to put up runs. Add on to it and hold a lead? That's a different story. 

That will need to change if they want to defeat North Iowa and face Newman Catholic in the quarterfinals. This will be the third meeting between West Hancock and the Bison.

North Iowa won the first game 10-4 then West Hancock flipped the script and won the second contest 5-4, which is also the last time it won a game. Both sides are entering on a losing streak of at least six games, so something will give.

The Eagles will need to cut down the strikeouts in order to win. They have 124 on the season to just 42 walks. Four pitchers could see time in the circle, and will need to throw the game of their lives as they have a combined ERA of 13.08.

Central Springs

If there has been one constant in North Iowa this summer, it has been the Class 2A No. 5 Panthers. 

They have been one the elite teams in the state with an offense that has few weaknesses and a pitcher in sophomore Cooper Klaahsen that is shutdown good on any given night.

So, what can stop Central Springs from making yet another trip to Fort Dodge? Two things.

One, it did not get put into an easy regional. Lake Mills is not a team it saw in the regular season and the Bulldogs can put up runs in a hurry. The Panthers needed a walk-off to beat West Fork on June 23. And the bottom half as a top-10 team in Columbus Catholic and a 20-win South Hardin team.

Two, if Central Springs has an off night or runs into an elite pitcher, it could spell trouble. It was held in check by Josie Juhl of St. Ansgar and then against 1A No. 1 Newell-Fonda, it needed a game-winning run in the sixth to make up for a six-hit day.

There's no doubt that the Panthers have the ingredients to make it to the 2A tournament. They'll first have to survive a grueling regional.

West Fork

With only two seniors in the starting lineup, the Warhawks might be a year away from serious contention, but as of late, they could be the ones to play spoiler in a difficult regional.

Since a 3-7 start, West Fork have gone 7-6, which may not seem like a big jump, but look at the finals in some of those last 13 games. It beat Newman Catholic 6-5, hung tough with Class 3A Hampton-Dumont-CAL 4-2, lost to Central Springs via a walk-off 5-4 and fell to St. Ansgar 9-5.

If the Warhawks beat Belmond-Klemme in a quarterfinal, a potential rematch with Central Springs looms. 

So long as Libby Trewin is in the circle and the bats of Maddie Hubka and Kalli Trewin show, count out West Fork at your own peril. Still, there are some road blocks in the way. Team batting average sits at .275, which is tied with the Broncos as the lowest amongst the rest of the regional with at least 10 wins.

Lake Mills

Speaking of youth, the Bulldogs have a ton of it with no seniors on the roster and just three juniors. The rest of the lineup is made up of sophomores and freshmen.

At 12-11 on the season, Lake Mills is also likely a year or two away from serious contention. Still, it has the ability to do some damage at the plate and in the circle.

If starter Scout Kohagen commands the zone and avoids being too wild, she's good enough to keep the Bulldogs in games. The offense will need to find someone other than the main four of Madison Edwards, Finley Rogstad, Brynn Rogers and Kit Byars to step up.

Natalie Brandenburg is one to keep an eye on, as she's had a sneaky good year. Lake Mills opens up against Manson-NW Webster at home with the winner facing Central Springs in a quarterfinal. 

If the Bulldogs want an extended stay in the playoffs, they'll need to play well beyond their years.

Osage

This is one of the teams that has gone in the opposite direction since early-June. The Green Devils have lost 11 of their last 14 games after a 9-4 start.

Osage's struggles are two-fold. Its offense has sputtered over the last couple of weeks, averaging 3.7 runs per game in the last 14 contests compared to 4.8 in the first 13 games. 

And the pitching of sophomore Mari Fox has been a case of teams starting to figure her out the longer the game goes. She'll need to adjust to the lineup before the lineup adjusts to her.

Jesup is the Green Devils quarterfinal opponent. A potential date with 2A No. 1 North Linn could await in a regional semifinal. Osage will need to shake out of an offense funk and hope that Fox has a resurgence in the circle for the season to continue.

Hampton-Dumont-CAL

It is set up for the taking. All the Bulldogs have to go do is go take it.

If they beat Garner-Hayfield-Ventura in the quarterfinal game, they'll host either Sumner-Fredericksburg or Clear Lake in the regional semifinal with a potential date with 3A No. 2 Mount Vernon for a regional title.

The sudden emergence of eighth grader Aubryee Showalter in the lineup adds another dimension to HDC plus she's the third hitter to have a batting average above .480, joining Avery Hanson and Kylee Whipple.

Hanson, a southpaw, is the anchor for the Bulldogs in the circle. She works quick and combines a blazing fastball/riseball combo with a changeup that when effective, can silence a lineup.

Garner-Hayfield-Ventura

Losing 10 of 11 games doesn't bode well for confidence, but the Cardinals did close the year with a 2-2 record and both of the losses were by five runs or less.

If GHV wants to get past Hampton-Dumont-CAL on Tuesday, it will have to clean up the errors. It has committed 85 errors and the fielding percentage is a tick above 87 percent. 

Maddie Graham is one of the weapons at the Cardinals disposal. She's been better as a hitter (.404 batting average, 23 RBIs, nine doubles) then pitcher (5-7, 5.42 ERA, 73 K's, .321 batting average against).

The lone senior will have to be excellent in both areas for them to get an upset.

Clear Lake 

The Lions are red hot, winners of six in a row and big wins over Newman Catholic and St. Edmond in the final week of the regular season. It is quite the turnaround from six straight losses, half of them decided by a run.

In fact, eight of Clear Lake's games have been decided by a run. It is 3-5 in those games, a trend that continued from last season. 

Sophomore catcher Annika Nelson has led the offense with a batting average above. 500, five home runs and 17 RBIs. Makella Jacobs and Emeny Brattrud have 18 RBIs apiece. Chelsey Holck is clipping .453 at the plate.

Junior Ashlyn Fread has had a bounce back final week. Her record is 5-4 and the ERA has fallen below four. If the Lions want to beat a 22-win Cougars team, Fread will be a big reason why.

Forest City

There was no favorable draw for the 9-16 Indians. They get to play Crestwood, a ranked team that finished third in the Northeast Iowa Conference, in the opening round.

Freshman Emma Anderson, a second-year starter for Forest City, is leading its offense in RBIs, home runs, tied for the lead in walks and fourth in batting average with at least 50 at-bats.

Ellie Caylor, Karly Lambert and Lanna Johnson all have at least 19 hits. Where the Indians need to get a step up in production is from the circle, where Alyson Walker has walked more batters than she's struck out (120 BB's to 74 K's).

The senior will need to be on her best game if the Indians have a chance at pulling off a stunner in the first round.

Charles City

The Comets had little room for error when the season began. They were ranked in the top-15, but they were near the bottom each time and after being at No. 15 for a couple of weeks, they fell out.

It has resulted in a tough regional with potentially West Delaware in the semis if it can get past Waverly-Shell Rock and a potential regional final versus 4A No. 2 Western Dubuque.

Still, the regular season Northeast Iowa Conference champs have some pieces to put together another run into the state tourney.

The slap hitters of Kiki Connell and Lydia Staudt are a consistent threat to get on base then move with their quickness from base to base. And if those two get on, the state's runner-up in home runs with 19 in Rachel Chambers or Ashlyn Hoeft can bring them in.

Senior Dani Reetz has plenty of postseason experience to carry herself in tough situations if they arise. The come-up of sophomore Natalie White could allow Charles City to run two pitchers in game if Reetz struggles.

Mason City

When the Mohawks got done with playing the CIML and bumped down to 4A, they went on a run to the regional final. If they want to duplicate that, they'll have to get through not one, but three top-15 teams.

It starts with No. 15 North Polk. Win that and Mason City faces No. 11 Ballard. Get by the Bombers and No. 6 Dallas Center-Grimes is the likely regional final opponent.

Not a small mountain to climb. 

The Mohawks will need their upperclassmen – Shaye Theobald, Lainna Duncan and Sam Norcross – to provide necessary leadership and continued offensive pace of 53 combined RBIs.

Adyson Evans has had moments of being a shutdown pitcher. In order for Mason City to move on in the postseason, it'll need the freshman to be shutdown in every game. 

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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