In past years, the Mason City Mohawks softball team would be a couple of weeks into their season at this point.
Fans would pack into ballparks and stadiums all across the state of Iowa to watch their team hit the sand and grass.
This year, the Mohawks – along with the other softball teams in Iowa – are starting up later than usual. But at least they get to. And Mason City is taking advantage of it.
The squad held its first practice on Tuesday in near-100 degree weather, and head coach Bob Horner is excited to get his girls back on the diamond.
“It feels really good. I’m excited for the kids,” Horner said. “I know the kids are really excited, but there’s a lot of things in place that we have to have to try to keep everybody safe. The first day today was kind of a feeling out process with things that we have to do.”
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has introduced many new rules and regulations to ensure the health and safety of teams from the global pandemic COVID-19. Included are the enforcement of sanitizing game balls and no fans in the stands.
“We made sure that we’re really conscious of that,” Horner said. “The other big part is, before and after practice, we disinfect all our equipment. That’s probably the most important things we want to do.”
Horner said the most important part was issuing masks to the girls. If the players were within the six-foot radius, they are required to wear the mask to stay safe.
“The social distance sense is the most important,” Horner said. “We’ve got to stay at least six feet apart. If you’re within the social distance you have to wear a mask. So we issued masks for everybody. Most of our practice was spread out.”
As far as competition goes, the Mohawks finished 18-22 overall and 6-16 in the Central Iowa Metro League a season ago. The team has some holes to fill, as it lost six seniors to graduation and has many new young faces.
Some of the top returners include the only two seniors on the team. Sami Miller is the only returning all-conference performer. She had a .352 batting average as an Honorable-Mention All-Conference selection. The other senior, Brianna Notermann, had a .359 batting average in 2019. Miller and Notermann are the two players Horner expects to lead the team this season.
Notermann is excited to get the season rolling and knows the Mohawks have a tall task ahead of them in one of the toughest conferences in the state.
“We had six seniors last year and all of them are gone,” Notermann said. “It’s just me and Sam. I think it’s a really big job and opportunity for us to show these younger girls who are coming up how CIML softball is and the best way to compete. It’s our job to help them adjust.”
Among those six seniors that were lost to graduation was the Mohawks two top pitchers, McKenna Mentink and Anna Lensing. Horner expects sophomore Isabella Monarch to step up and fill that void. Horner also brought up a couple eighth-graders to help out.
“We’re going to be awful young pitching this year,” Horner said. “We’re going to have to pitch by committee and we’ll have to see how that goes.”
Notermann echoed what her coach said and hopes that her team can rally and surprise teams in the conference.
“We have a lot of holes to fill since we lost a lot of seniors last year,” Notermann said. “I just hope that we’re able to fill spots and our younger girls are able to step up and compete. I know this year has been filled with a lot of surprises and we’re not supposed to be a powerhouse team. Who knows? Maybe we can be a surprise this year.”
The Mohawks travel south to kick off their season in Waukee on June 15.
Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.