Westosha Central shortstop Kayla Kerkman turns a double play assisted by Andrea Edquist (far right) during last year’s WIAA Division 1 sectional final. Kerkman and Edquist will play a major offensive role for the Falcons this season (File Photo/The Report).

By Jason Arndt
Editor

Capturing a Southern Lakes Conference title has been an annual ritual for the Westosha Central High School softball team, but notching a seventh straight hinges on whether the younger Falcons can come together rapidly, co-coach Tom Lampe said.

The Falcons, who enter the season without five departing seniors, including pitcher Alyssa Hrncar and infielder Kira Mickelson, return five key letter-winners from a team which finished 21-6 overall and 13-1 in the SLC.

“We are a younger team than we were last season,” Lampe said. “We are hoping we can gel quickly. If we can, we could be in the mix in the Southern Lakes.”

The five key returners – Kayla Kerkman (senior, infield), Andrea Edquist (senior, catcher), Danielle Gulliford (senior, infield), Becca Edwards (junior, infield/outfield), and Olivia Kazumura (junior pitcher) – are joined by three other returners and six newcomers.

In the pitcher’s circle, where Hrncar capped off an illustrious career marked by a handful of school records, Lampe looks to Kazumura to pick up where she left off last season.

Kazumura, who filled in for Hrncar while the senior was injured, struck out 63 hitters and walked 29 through 72.2 innings to finish her sophomore campaign with a 7-1 record.

Lampe believes Kazumura, who pitched against tough competition at the start of last season, could have a formidable junior year.

“She has looked good in the early part of the season and if she continues to pitch like she has, we’ll be fine in the circle,” he said.

Kazumura, who will not have the run support of Mickelson, who hit a team-leading seven home runs with 42 RBIs along with a .495 batting average and .515 on base percentage, looks to Kerkman, Edquist, Edwards and Gulliford to shoulder the load.

Kerkman, a Division 2 Winona State University commit, led the Falcons in runs (32) and tied for the team-lead in hits (47) with Mickelson as a junior.

Additionally, the speedy infielder compiled a .480 batting average with a .505 on base percentage to earn first team all-SLC.

Edquist, conference honorable mention, returns as the Falcons’ leading power hitter, belting five home runs while batting in 16 runs last season. She also drew a team-leading 12 walks to finish with a .415 on base percentage.

For Edwards, she collected seven doubles, hit three home runs with 20 RBIs, a batted .347 and had a .402 on base percentage a year ago.

The three offensive returners, according to Lampe, have shown improvement during early season practices.

“They have looked very good both at the plate and in the field. All of them came in better shape than last season,” Lampe said. “All of them are very determined to have big seasons as well. We will be counting on all three for our successes.”

Other infield returners are seniors Kendall Krumm, who mostly played third base last season, and Alex Kelly.

In the outfield, where the team needs to replace second-team all-SLC Carrie Weis and honorable mention Sarai Roberts, senior Rylee Johnson is the leading returner.

“(Rylee) should get a lot of time out there,” said Lampe, who looks to juniors Haley Hovland, Molly Grabarec and Abby Jones to fill the other two positions.

Additionally, sophomores Ellie Christeson and Carlie Odejewski could see some playing time.

“We have a lot of speed out there. We feel comfortable with any combination of players in those positions,” Lampe said.

With an influx of players from last year’s junior varsity team, Lampe said they performed well in an early season scrimmage against Oak Creek, which finished 22-2 a year ago.

“All of them have adjusted to the speed of varsity ball and all performed well in our scrimmage against Oak Creek,” Lampe said.

Among the newcomers, according to Lampe, Christeson will offer Kazumura some relief in the pitcher’s circle.

As the Falcons enter the season, Lampe acknowledged several teams stand in the way of their seventh consecutive conference title, including state runner-up Wilmot.

Wilmot, which ended the Falcons season in the WIAA Division 1 sectional final, returns five of its nine starters.

“I think there are several teams that will be in competition,” Lampe said. “Right off the bat you have to look at Wilmot, based on how they finished last season.”

Lampe also noted other teams have shown improvement, including Elkhorn and Burlington, in addition to Delavan-Darien and Union Grove.

“If we put things together, we will be in the mix as well,” he said.

 
 

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