MHS softball seeks wins to match its talent, effort

The simple math shows a Marshalltown High School softball squad that allowed 9.3 runs per game while scoring just 2.3 runs per game last season.

And yet, after a 2-32 summer of softball, MHS head coach Jim Palmer still chooses to see the silver linings.

“A lot of these same girls that were part of that regional team last year where we came up just a little bit short, they’ve put in the time and the work this year,” he said. “They’ve come to a lot of open gyms, done a lot of hitting, and they’re really striking the ball well right now.

“Defensively, this has probably been one of the best defensive practices we’ve had, so we’re getting there but we’re still breaking off the rust a little bit.”

Ready or not, here comes the 2019 campaign. The Bobcats are scheduled to open the season tonight at Newton with a doubleheader slated for Friday at Ames, and they’re starting with the mindset that makes the program’s first double-digit win season since 2013 a possibility.

“I have really high expectations,” said Palmer. “We have some really young kids, freshmen and even eighth-graders, that are really pushing and vying for varsity positions. Again we’re a very young team but we have a lot of talent up and down the board with a lot of returners too.”

Palmer immediately points to seniors Alyvia Chadderdon and Marina Rosalez, who started at second base and in the corner outfield spots last summer.

In all, the Bobcats bring back as many as eight or nine starters in hopes of improving upon the win/loss total that has overshadowed the positive steps Palmer has been seeing from his squad.

“Our win/loss record doesn’t really show it, but we’ve seen improvement but it just hasn’t shown on that side of things,” he said, “and one of these days it’s going to reflect the hard work these girls put in. But it’s going to take some time.

“As I tell these girls, regionals is really the start of our season, that’s where our goal is set toward, so all these games we play are practice games to make us better for regionals.”

Palmer hopes his youthful pitching corps has the ability to help get the Bobcats a few more wins along the way, too. Sophomore Kailee Pollard returns with the most innings pitched after then-senior McKaylee Dawson graduated and extended her career at Marshalltown Community College. Dawson saw 32 innings in the circle last summer, while freshman Avery Mull got the ball for 25 1/3 frames.

“I’m really excited for where we’re at in the circle,” said Palmer. “We are going to be stocked with pitchers for a while and I’m excited about that.”

Chadderdon was the top hitter on the team last summer, hitting .366 with 30 hits, two doubles, two triples, a home run and 10 RBIs. Madi Finch, now a junior, returns at third base and batted .300 with eight doubles, a homer and 10 RBIs, while junior Erica Johnson hit .236 with three doubles and eight RBIs.

Freshman Autumn Finch got just 12 at-bats but made the most of them, batting .417 with a double and four RBIs, while Mull hit .278 in limited chances as well. Their increase in playing time will cater to improved numbers across the board in all facets of the game.

“With the leadership of Alyvia and Marina, I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Palmer said. “Our motto this year is ‘one team, one goal’ — we’re going to have one goal and it’s to have each other’s backs and do whatever we need to do for the team. It’s going to be exciting. I can’t predict anything … but we’ve got to want it. We’re trying to change the attitude of getting after it.”

Finch, Johnson and Rosalez each earned all-CIML Iowa Conference honorable mention selection a summer ago.

“You’re going to see a lot in the first 2-3-4 weeks where we’re switching up this lineup a lot trying to find what’s going to be the best scenario for us,” Palmer said.