Their field may have still been covered in snow early this week, but it wasn’t stopping the Watertown-Mayer girls’ softball team from working hard to get ready for their upcoming season.
The Royals have been practicing inside since March 11, and they hope the time they put in in the gym will translate to the field when they are scheduled — weather permitting — to open the season April 4 at home against Tri City United. The scheduled season opener for April 2 at Norwood Young America has already been rescheduled for April 12.
The Royals will have to replace quite a bit of talent from last year, however, as two of their three all-conference selections were lost to graduation among five seniors overall. Emily Tschida, a first-teamer last year, Ashley Anfinson, an honorable-mention catcher, and Anna Motzko, a .300 hitter, all graduated from last year’s team. Kaitlyn O’Brien, the team’s No. 2 pitcher last year, also graduated, as did Kami Bogenrief — who missed much of last year due to injury — and Austyn Doty.
Even despite the key losses, head coach Scott Isakson, in his 10th year, believes his team will be plenty competitive.
“Our goal is to compete for a conference title in the Minnesota River Conference and be prepared to make a run in the playoffs this season,” he said.
Last year, the Royals finished 6-8 in the MRC, good for fifth place, and 10-11 overall. There are plenty of reasons for optimism this year though, with seven players returning with starting experience and eight letterwinners returning overall.
Leading the group of returnees is senior outfielder Taylor Moynagh, a first-team all-conference selection who led the team in almost every offensive category last season. She hit a team-high .400 and had a team-best .542 on-base percentage. She also led the team with six extra-base hits, 15 walks and 17 RBIs.
Sophomore shortstop Lacey Sullivan also returns for the Royals after a stellar freshman season in which she hit .360 with a .439 on base percentage. She had a team-high 12 stolen bases and also drove in 10 runs.
The Royals will also get their top pitcher back in sophomore Lily Reinert. Reinert threw 104 innings, more than twice as many as anybody else last year, and posted a 3.16 ERA and 6-6 record. She allowed only 95 hits and struck out 53.
Other players returning with starting experience for the Royals include pitcher/infielder Christine Kreatz, infielder Chelsea Wandersee, infielder Amanda Wabbe, and outfielder Ashley Wiswell. Alyssa Kolb also earned a letter for the Royals last season.
“The kids that we have on our roster have put in a lot of time in the summer playing ball and improving together,” Isakson said. “They have been working hard each day at practice and they are showing the kind of improvement that we need to have success this season.”
Isakson said it would be key for the returning players to step up, and for the younger players to step in and contribute as well.
“We need to find the athletes to step into the lineup right away,” he said. “We want continued improvement throughout the season, and strong leadership from our veterans.”
Isakson pointed to Norwood Young America and LeSueur-Henderson as the probable favorites in the MRC, citing their excellent pitching and solid hitters. He also pointed to teams like Delano, Annandale and Becker as some of the ones to beat in Section 5AA.
This year’s captains for the Royals will be Moynagh, Wandersee and Reinert. Moynagh and Kreatz are the team’s only seniors.
Contact Matt Bunke at email@example.com