Panther softball has high hopes in SLC
Koehn leads list of returners
By Jason Arndt
With a smaller Wilmot Union High School softball team, each player expects to play a crucial role entering this season, but first year coach Jennifer Jacobson believes the Panthers can compete in the tenacious Southern Lakes Conference.
“I expect our team to be one of the top teams in our conference. We have the talent and ability to go very far, and I expect us to do just that,” she said. “We have a lot of drive and determination this year, as well as some unfinished business, and I know the girls will be successful in their efforts.”
The unfinished business for the Panthers, who finished one game behind third-place Burlington at 8-6 (16-11 overall), is avenging a season ending loss to Westosha Central in the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal.
While the Panthers return seven letter-winners, including second-team all-state Kalyssa Koehn, other teams in SLC lost key pieces.
Losses include Union Grove’s Brittany Moore and Allie Trudeau, power-hitters Kayla Konwent and Chy Onstad of Westosha Central, Burlington’s Dani Koehnen and Talyn Lewis along with Delavan-Darien’s Jennah Speth.
Of those four teams, three finished above the Panthers last season, including state runner-up Union Grove.
Jacobson, however, has chosen not to take their chances for granted.
“I think that every year there is talent lost, so I do not want to overthink and put so much emphasis on that,” she said. “We came close and/or beat the top three teams in conference last year, so it just shows that we are definitely going to be okay.”
As the Panthers enter their season, they are working to address their own graduation losses, which consist of infielder Sawyer Wightman, catcher Alyssa Horn, outfielder Sam Schoegl and infielder Shauna Lass.
While most positions have been set, including the strong armed Koehn (captain) at shortstop, returning letter-winners Sarah Hutchinson (captain) on the mound, Taylor Danielson (captain) behind the plate and Riley Regnier manning first base, Jacobson plans to start players based on opponent.
Otherwise, the Panthers return junior infielder/outfielder Montana Platts, junior infielder/outfielder Hayli Richards and infielder Anna Devall.
Koehn, a senior and Division 1 North Dakota State University commit, had a versatile junior season.
As a junior, Koehn batted .495, collected 11 doubles, three triples, belted four home runs, stole eight bases, had 36 RBI and scored 38 times en route to first-team all-conference honors.
Additionally, the strong-armed shortstop contributed on the mound, where she logged 26 1/3 innings, struck out 23 finished the season with a 2.92 ERA.
Regnier, a first-team all-conference and honorable mention all-state, looks to build upon her junior season, where she batted .489 with 14 doubles, six home runs, two triples, 34 RBI and 25 runs scored.
For Platts, a junior, she tabulated an honorable mention sophomore season, when she belted a home run, had 23 RBI, collected four doubles, stole four bases and batted .371.
Platts verbally committed to play Division 1 softball at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Additionally, Danielson looks to produce a full senior year, after she suffered a season ending knee at the start of her junior season.
Up until Danielson’s season-ending injury, the University of Indianapolis commit went 8 for 11 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI in three games.
Hutchinson, meanwhile, struck out 107 hitters, walked 39, allowed 125 hits and compiled 15 complete games to conclude her junior season at 13-8 and a 2.81 ERA. She was named honorable mention.
At the plate, Hutchinson had two home runs with 13 RBI.
As a sophomore, Richards hit six home runs, knocked in 29 runs, collected six doubles. She also batted .282 with 23 runs scored.
Jacobson, noting the seven returners, believes their experience can play a critical role in this year’s success.
“I will say that we have a very good chance to claim the conference title, and beyond, because I have seven returning starters. Their experience and leadership skills will help us be successful this year,” she said.
Another returner is senior outfielder/infielder Paige Huffmaster, who saw limited action last year.
Bolstering the team’s chances are two sophomores who could see substantial playing time.
Sophomore Madison Zerr gives Hutchinson relief on the mound and outfielder Haley Lamberson expects to fill the shoes of Schloegl, a centerfielder last season.
“Madi brings another pitching option to our rotation, which will be very helpful,” she said. “We lost a key outfielder (in Schloegl) last year due to graduation, but I have the confidence that Haley can step-in and be an addition both offensively and defensively.”
Adding to the sophomore mix is infielder/outfielder Sami Christianson.