By Matt Bunke, Community Editor
The Watertown-Mayer softball team fell just a bit short of a .500 season in its first year in the Minnesota River Conference, but head coach Scott Isakson said he was pleased with the way things turned out.
Going into the season, he said his team’s main goal was to improve throughout the year and be playing its best softball by the end. He felt his team accomplished that goal, and actually, it might have been a pair of losses that best illustrated how much the team improved throughout the year.
In the second-to-last game of the regular season, it took 10 innings for fifth-ranked LeSueur-Henderson to knock off the Royals, and after winning its first-round tournament game, the Royals put a scare into state-qualifier Mound-Westonka, leading late in the game before the Whitehawks pulled away in the late innings.
In the end, it all added up to a 10-11 record overall and a 6-8 record in the MRC, good for fifth place.
"Throughout this season, our girls continued to improve, and at the end of the season, we felt as if we could compete with anyone," Isakson said.
The Royals posted strong offensive numbers this season, with five regular starters hitting .300 or better. The team was led by junior Taylor Moynagh, who finished a team-high .400 batting average and team-high .542 on base percentage. She also led the team with six extra-base hits, 15 walks and 17 RBIs. She also had seven stolen bases.
Senior Emily Tschida also had a big year at the plate. She hit .367 and had an on-base percentage of .493, both of which ranked second on the team. She finished with 11 RBIs, and was also consistent on defense, making only 2 errors in 21 games while playing mostly at second base.
Freshman shortstop Lacey Sullivan hit .360 for the Royals and had a .439 on base percentage. She led the team with 12 stolen bases and also had 10 RBIs. Senior catcher Ashley Anfinson hit .313 and had a .436 on base percentage. She was second on the team with 13 RBIs.
Senior outfielder Anna Motzko led the team with 80 plate appearances and 70 at-bats, hitting .300 on the year with a .400 on-base percentage. She was second on the team with five extra base hits and nine stolen bases, and also drove in 12 runs.
In the circle, freshman pitcher Lily Reinert threw the bulk of the innings, throwing 104 innings and posting a 3.16 ERA and 6-6 record. She struck out 53 hitters and allowed 95 hits. Senior Kaitlyn O’Brien threw 47 innings, posting a 4-5 record and a 3.72 ERA. She struck out 29 and walked only 15
Moynagh and Tschida both earned all-conference honors for the Royals, while Anfinson was named honorable-mention all-conference for the second consecutive year. Moynagh and Sullivan were also named All-Section 5AA.
The team also handed out several team awards. Anfinson was named both the team’s MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year after a season in which she made only two errors and controlled the game from the catcher position. Moynagh was named the Offensive Player of the Year, while freshman Ashley Wiswell, who hit .269, was named the Rookie of the Year. Wiswell and sophomore Amanda Wabbe were both named Most Improved, while Tschida, Reinert and Austyn Doty were named the Hardest Workers. Moynagh, Chelsea Wandersee and Reinert were named captains for next season.
Watertown-Mayer will lose five seniors from this year’s team in Anfinson, Tschida, Motzko, O’Brien and Doty. Isakson said their leadership will be tough to replace.
"The leadership provided by our captains will be missed," he said. "Ashley Anfinson, Emily Tschida and Anna Motzko have all been competing at the varsity level in softball for three seasons each, and now they are each moving on to college. We wish them the best of luck."
The Royals will, however, have a large group of returning letter winners. In addition to the five seniors, Wabbe, Doty, Alyssa Kolb, Wandersee, Wiswell, Reinert, Kiana Paulson, Sullivan, Christine Kreatz and Mackenzie Kratch all earned varsity letters.
"As for next season, we will have some major holes to fill with the loss of our seniors," Isakson said. "However, we do have a fantastic group of kids returning with varsity experience, and many others that are competing on summer teams, lifting weights and taking advantage of ways to improve as ball players. The future is definitely bright for Watertown-Mayer softball.