MHS softball ahead of schedule

The Marshalltown softball team is a little older and a little wiser heading into the summer of 2017.

Despite losing its leading hitter and secondary pitcher, the Bobcats are poised for strong showings this season. MHS head coach Jim Palmer has already seen signs off success out of scrimmages the Bobcats have been having on the weekends.

“I’m a lot more confident this year,” coach Palmer said. “Our practices are a lot smoother, we’re a lot further along than we were last year. We’re in great shape.”

The Bobcats graduated senior slugger McKaylee Palmer and pitcher Jasmine Judge. Palmer led MHS with a .348 batting average, with a team-best slugging percentage of .465, and a .404 on-base percentage. She had one of the team’s two home runs, seven doubles and 30 hits (all team-leading stats).

Judge was the secondary pitcher to now-junior McKaylee Dawson. Judge had 15 starts and two other appearances, going 2-12 and pitching 90 1/3 innings. Judge led Marshalltown with 35 strikeouts and opponents hit .273 off of her.

This season, Dawson will maintain her starting role. That’s something she said she’s been ready to get back to doing this year.

“I’m excited,” Dawson said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’ve been through the motions. I’m ready for this.”

Coach Palmer said Abby Brennecke is gearing up to be the Bobcats’ No. 2 pitcher behind Dawson. Brennecke, a sophomore, saw 3 2/3 innings last year in just two appearances. She faced 16 batters, not earning a strike out, walking two and gave up a .250 batting average.

“She’s pushing that spot pretty hard right now,” Palmer said. “We’ve got some underclassmen who are working hard and may get some time on the varsity level as well.”

As a team, the Bobcats tallied 143 hits, two home runs and just 19 extra-base hits. They scored 60 runs in their 4-31 season. With the team already gelling well and with practice running smoothly early on, coach Palmer said he’s implementing a lot more offensive strategy into practice.

“I’m spending about an hour and 45 minutes every day working on the offensive game,” Palmer said. “Because we can do a great job defensively, holding teams to one run or no runs, but if we can’t hit the ball, we’re not going to win very many games. My focus is really hard on the offensive side.”

Dawson added the Bobcats are showing signs of confidence as well at the plate, noting that once one hitter finds the sweet spot, the team could get on a role.

“I feel like we can really pick each other up,” Dawson said. “It’s like a domino effect. Once one girl has a hit, the rest of the team follows. We just need that one spark in the beginning of the lineup, and that’ll happen.”

Coach Palmer said in a preseason scrimmage a few weeks back, the Bobcats found three runs in the bottom of the first inning, while holding their opponent to zero. It’s that kind of early-season success that has coach Palmer and Co. feeling confident.

Chemistry plays as much of a role as offense and defense, and coach Palmer has already seen the signs of a cohesive team.

“The team chemistry is a lot tighter this year,” Palmer said. “We’re really working hard at bringing the girls together and really explaining the game. We’re still teaching the game. Even the juniors need to understand and reeducate them. If you don’t play the sport every day and do everything every day, you forget what our responsibilities are. So that’s what we’re really focused on right now.”

The Bobcats kick off the season with a three-game road trip, starting at Newton tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.