Roland-Story softball program kept up winning ways in 2022: Norse go 20-10, take second in the HOIC

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

The Roland-Story softball team had a big year at the plate and steady play on the pitching mound in recording its second 20-win season in a row.

The Norse went 20-10 in 2022 after a 24-9 season a year ago. They ended up second in the Heart of Iowa Conference this season behind Class 3A state qualifier Saydel with a 10-4 record.

Junior Reagan Faber hit .505 and scored 41 runs to help the Roland-Story softball team go 20-10 and place second in the Heart of Iowa Conference during the 2022 season.

"I was very happy for the team to put together their second 20-win season in 2 years with a challenging schedule," Roland-Story head coach Amber Doyle said. "I think we showcased that we are a strong all-around team and that Roland-Story is still in the discussion when it comes to being competitive in softball during post season time."

Roland-Story excelled despite a rough opening week. The Norse lost their first three games, falling to Collins-Maxwell (3-0), Ames (9-3) and Nevada (7-4).

"Coming into the season we had really hoped to get off to a strong start and give ourselves an opportunity to be ranked in the top eight and claim a top seed in regional pairings," Doyle said. "While we played solid softball, we had a tough week one schedule."

It didn't take long for the Norse to rebound.

Roland-Story won its next three games, defeating West Marshall (5-0), Perry (9-2) and Greene County (5-2). After a 6-0 loss to Saydel the Norse won four of five games, topping East Marshall (9-2), Prairie City-Monroe (13-3), MVAOCOU (10-0) and Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove (22-0) and losing to Newell-Fonda team ranked No. 2 in 1A (9-1).

The hot play continued over the next two weeks as Roland-Story won 10 of 12 games. The Norse defeated Greene County (4-2), eventual 3A state qualifier Ballard (9-7), Nevada (13-3), Benton Community (3-2), Estherville-Lincoln Central (3-0), Perry (20-9), Glenwood (8-0), Colo-NESCO (15-2) and Webster City (3-0).

The biggest win of the stretch came against Saydel, handing the Eagles a 3-2 loss in Roland June 22.

"I felt we played a series of some of our best games," Doyle said. "Unfortunately, those big wins seemed to come too late and landed us in a 2 seed with a pretty competitive bracket."

The only losses for Roland-Story during the hot streak were to Gilbert (9-7) and West Marshall (2-1). The Norse wrapped up the regular season by splitting a doubleheader with South Hamilton (losing 8-6 and winning 7-3), falling to 5A power Ankeny Centennial (11-0) and defeating PCM in extra innings (5-3).

"We used our last week of games to clean some things up the best we could," Doyle said. "It was nice to see us get an extra inning game on the road to earn second in the conference."

In 3A regional play Roland-Story took down Nevada in the quarterfinals by a 10-0 score. But the Norse caught a talented Ballard team at the wrong time in the semifinals, losing 8-0 to end the season.

"Our three starting seniors and four starting juniors were all pulled up as eighth graders and most of them had three or four years of starting varsity under their belts," Doyle said. "They know what it takes for us to win games and there is a desire to keep improving throughout the season to give us our best chance at a postseason run."

Starting pitcher Madison Geise, catcher Macy Friest and shortstop Ally Ringsby were the three starting seniors for Roland-Story.

"The three seniors were the heart of the team," Doyle said. "Their game experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for the game will be difficult to replace moving forward."

Geise went 16-9 with a 2.23 ERA, 150 strikeouts and 44 walks in 141 innings pitched. She also hit .341 with five doubles, three homers and 28 RBIs.

"Madison had one of her strongest performances on the mound, finishing 12th in 3A with 150 strikeouts on the season," Doyle said. "She also had a strong hitting performance for us."

Friest hit .354 with seven doubles, three homers and 28 RBIs. She threw out 10 base runners behind the plate and only had three errors in 208 chances.

Macy was best friends with our pitching staff more than once, throwing out 10 runners from behind the plate and keeping girls from being too aggressive against us," Doyle said. "She also ended second on our team in slugging percentage (.515) and tied for the most homeruns and RBIs."

Ringsby posted a .371 average with 15 steals, eight doubles, two homers, 28 runs and 26 RBIs. In the field she tallied 54 putouts and 53 assists.

"Ally was in our top categories as both a speedy leader and driving in runs," Doyle said. "She started making diving catches halfway through season and became a defensive force that ended more than one inning for other teams."

The top underclassman for Roland-Story was junior center fielder Reagan Faber.

Faber hit .505 with 21 steals, nine doubles, two triples, 41 runs and 16 RBIs. She only had two errors in 31 chances defensively.

"Reagan was an offensive force," Doyle said. "She led our team in slugging percentage (.642), singles, doubles, triples, runs scored and stolen bases, while also being a dominant force in the outfield.  We will certainly be looking for her leadership in 2023."

Junior second baseman and outfielder Kayley Birkland was the breakout performer for Roland-Story.

Birkland hit .351 with three doubles, three homers and 15 runs and RBIs apiece. She recorded 15 putouts and 11 assists defensively.

"Kayley came on strong in the second half of the season," Doyle said. "We will be looking to her to drive in runs (next year) with the loss of our top three RBI producers."

Veteran third baseman Lydia Oetker hit .250 with five doubles, 13 runs and eight RBIs. She had 50 assists and 19 putouts defensively.

Sophomore Hayden Walters took over at first base. Walters hit .292 with two doubles, one triple and 18 RBIs on offense and had 114 putouts on defense.

Sophomore first baseman Hayden Walters will be one of the top returning players for Roland-Story next season.

Freshman outfielder and second baseman Kamryn Lande hit .351 with 17 runs, 12 steals and seven RBIs. She made 22 assists and 16 putouts on defense.

Junior Allyn Solberg manned left field for Roland-Story. Solberg hit .312 with a double and 17 runs and had 27 putouts and two assists defensively.

Freshmen Lexi Vaughn and Alyssa Jones contributed regularly off the bench. Vaughn hit .243 with six RBIs and Jones .238 with five runs.

As a team Roland-Story scored 198 runs and hit .336 with 42 doubles, four triples, 11 homers and 61 steals. The Norse fielded at a 93.1 % clip in the field.

The Roland-Story pitching staff gave up 114 runs and posted a 2.49 ERA with 176 strikeouts and 69 walks in 193 2/3 innings.

Freshman Addy Sabatino and Jones backed Geise up on the hill. Sabatino was 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 1/3 innings and Jones 3-0 with a 3.07 ERA in 27 1/3 innings.

Losing such a productive trio of seniors won't be easy to replace next season. But the Norse have enough quality pieces in place to remain one of the top HOIC teams in 2023.

"We will definitely be looking to our four current juniors as well as Hayden Walters to take over leadership roles," Doyle said. "We also gave this year's freshman many opportunities to get them prepared for next year and I think they're eager to take on bigger roles for next year.  It may take us minute to get a feel for our team after losing our three seniors, but I think we will settle in and be more competitive as the season progresses."