—by Todd Thorson

(tthorson@storycityherald.com)

It’s not fair that a team’s success is usually judged by their season record. A losing record does not typically tell the whole story about the team’s true success as a whole. There are hidden measurements within the statistics that show positive signs, successes and/or improvements and adjustments that come to the surface once you begin breaking down the numbers.

The 2013 season was one of those seasons for the Roland-Story girls’ softball team. Although they finished 14-15 overall, they were competitive in every game they played this year. Eleven of their 15 losses were by three runs or less. And not only did the Norse face ranked opponents in the Heart of Iowa Conference, they also ran into six highly-touted non-conference opponents as well. Four of those teams went on to qualify for the state tournament, which is currently under way this week in Fort Dodge. A promising highlight of the season had to be their four game winning streak at the end of the season, which pushed their conference mark from 6-8 to 10-8 to make for a winning mark in the HOAIC.

Roland-Story did indeed come away with some big wins this summer. They beat PCM for the first time since Coach Amber Doyle took over the program four years ago. They then held rival Gilbert scoreless. The Norsemen put 29 runs on the board in two games at the Belmond-Klemme tournament, followed by 16 runs against Nevada. One of the biggest wins of the season had to be the 6-2 victory over the defending state champion Ballard Bombers.

"It was the first game where I really saw us believe what we were capable of accomplishing," said Doyle.

Following the Ballard win, the Norsemen and Gilbert hooked up again, and this time the game went 11 innings, before the R-S girls prevailed 11-5. After PCM avenged that earlier season loss, the Norse handed out some revenge of their own, putting nine runs on the board at home to defeat Saydel 9-5. Saydel had blanked the Norse 4-0 in their first meeting of the season. The R-S girls then closed out the conference and regular season with a four-game winning streak, two of those wins coming over teams that they had lost to previously.

Losses have been known to greatly help a team in their development and progress toward finding that winning mentality, and the Norsemen did, in fact, have their share of tough losses. They lost 3-0 to 5A Ames, the closest they’ve played the Little Cyclones in four years. The Norse lost to Greene County 3-2 in Jefferson, and dropped three games to ranked teams at the Marshalltown tourney. And it was at that time that Coach Doyle saw a certain fight in her girls that carried through to the remainder of the season.

In their first trip ever to Kalona and the Golden Hawk Classic, the Norsemen played 3rd ranked Mid-Prairie and lost by only a 1-0 score. Unfortunately, the season came to an abrupt halt when the Norse lost to North Polk for the third time this season in the 2A Regional opener.

"My biggest complement to these girls is that they played together as a team, and win or lose, they were always fun to watch because of that," commented Doyle. "I think the players returning next year now have a better understanding of what we are capable of doing as a team and will use that to get stronger through the off-season and be ready to play at the beginning of the season the way we were toward the end of this year."

Statistical highlights included Bryce Holmgren and Cassie Shadlow leading the Norse offense with .488 and .421 batting averages, respectively. Freshmen Alexa Whipple and Kelsey Polaski came on strong midway through the season, adding extra punch to the lineup by each batting .474 in 17 and 12 games, respectively. Mikenzi Monthei had a .366 batting average, and led the team in steals, swiping 15 of 16 bases. Holmgren was the hit leader as well, punching out 40 safeties, including 12 doubles. She also walked 28 times. Sydney Berends drove in the most runs with 20 RBIs. Bryce Holmgren and Maddie Schmitt managed 18 RBIs apiece. And Cassie Shadlow had 11 sacrifices to lead that category.

As a team, the Norsemen batted .299 and averaged 5.52 runs per game. They also collected 233 hits, for a per game average of just over 8.

Other regular Norse players and their batting averages included: Sydney Berends (.256), Jesslyn Coghlan (.254), Ena Moats (.247), Maddie Schmitt (.236), Schyler Polaski (.220), Katie Kasper (.182) and Brooke Staker (.169). Bridget Concannon played in about half of the Norsemen’s games and managed a .364 batting average.

The Norse had a .933 fielding average, committing only 60 errors for the season – an average of just two miscues per game.

Erin Nuetzman was the primary pitcher, compiling a 9-11 record in 23 starts. She pitched 128 1/3 innings and posted an ERA of 2.35. Bryce Holmgren started six contests, and made nine appearances in posting a 5-4 record, with an ERA of 2.67 in 60 1/3 innings of work.

Infielder Bryce Holmgren and outfielder Cassie Shadlow were named to the 2013 HOIAC All-Conference first team. Outfielder Ena Moats was selected to the second team. Erin Nuetzman and Sydney Berends received honorable mention honors.

Team awards were recently handed out at the end-of-season banquet held last Friday night (July 19). They were: MVP – Ena Moats, Golden Glove – Ena Moats, Big Stick – Bryce Holmgren, Hustle Award – Erin Nuetzman, Most Impactful Newcomer – Cassie Shadlow, Team Leader – Katie Kasper.

Letter winners for the 2013 R-S softball season included: Seniors – Katie Kasper, Ena Moats, Maddie Schmitt; Juniors – Sydney Berends, Mikenzi Monthei, Erin Nuetzman, Schyler Polaski, Cassie Shadlow, Brooke Staker; Sophomores – Jesslyn Coghlan, Bridget Concannon, Bryce Holmgren; Freshmen – Lexi Georgius, Kelsey Polaski, Alexa Whipple.

The Norsemen girls were coached by Amber Doyle and assisted by Dennis Nuetzman (J.V.) and Mariah Stumpf (9th). The eighth grade coach was Dalyn Varela and the seventh grade coach was Rachel Hagedorn.