Bobcat softball has enough experience to achieve goals

The Marshalltown High School softball team is fresh off its winningest season since 2013 and returns 15 players with varsity experience from that 11-win campaign.

It’s only natural that the Bobcats are expecting even more this season.

Marshalltown’s 11-27 summer in 2023 witnessed the start of a youth movement that gained a bunch of experience under first-year head coach Jason Bowers. The team’s .289 winning percentage was its best since 2017, and the double-digit win total was the program’s best since 2013.

Bowers believes his roster has what it takes to make strikes in piggybacking off last year’s progress.

“It’s a new year so it’s a new team and I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got and where I can put girls and things like that,” he said. “I think their enthusiasm is different this year and they’re relaxed.

“Last year they didn’t know what to expect with me coming in and there was a little hesitancy when we first started, and this year there’s not. The kids are relaxed and I think when they’re relaxed they’re having fun, they play better and I think we’re better at this time this year than we were this time last year.”

The Bobcats bring back nearly all of their innings pitched from last season, headlined by junior left-hander Karsyn Price. Price hurled 83 of Marshalltown’s 173 innings from the circle last summer, scoring five of the 11 wins along the way.

A trio of freshmen — Briley Danielson, Hanna Osgood and Emma Stupp — combined for another 72 1/3 innings, and all are back in the bullpen for the Bobcat pitching staff this summer.

“Karsyn is our most senior girl and you can tell she’s done a lot of work in the offseason,” said Bowers. “She’s got a lot more movement in her pitches and in general they’re all around the strike zone a lot more. That started in the winter for her and I’m really happy because we did struggle throwing strikes last year.

“Emma, she’s power. We’re just trying to get her to throw strikes and she’s going to be good. Briley threw a lot of innings for us last year and I’m really happy with her progress too. Hanna was miss reliable last year — we put her in and she’d just throw strikes — and she’s gained a lot of speed. Sky’s the limit for her if she just keeps putting in the work.”

The Bobcats’ battery did take a hit in the offseason, as injuries to incumbent catchers Kinsley Bowie and McKenna Coleman have forced both backstops to sit out this season. Madison Rogers, a move-in from Indianola, has seized the opportunity to get on the field behind the plate, while returners Abby Janssen, Ava Kusserow and Emelina Cruz will surely be a part of the mix.

Around the infield, Bowers has a bevy of players with experience at various positions, starting with lone senior Claire Bohan. Bohan played third base for most of her career but finds herself in position to see time at second base as well.

Laney Danielson, a junior, will be the team’s defensive Swiss Army Knife, seeing time at whichever position needs filled.

“I’ve been really happy with her, the way she’s come in this year being a leader and taking reps at all these different positions,” Bowers said. “Sometimes it’s a struggle to fill a lineup with good bats, but it’s important to be able to put a girl in a position she’s comfortable with. Laney is playing just about everywhere on the field and she’s showing the ability to do that.”

Bella Avise and Stupp will see time at first base, while Stupp, Cruz and Rogers are in the mix at third base. Kate Sandvick is expected to get the most reps at shortstop, but the team has plenty of versatility on defense.

“Second base is really an open spot right now,” Bowers said. “Claire is our only senior, Ava Kusserow could play there, maybe Laney or Briley. I’m not sure, it might just depend on the day or what bat I need in the lineup.”

Returning outfield starters Gianna Baune in center and Kennedy Feldman in left will return to their regular posts, while right field will be an open competition.

“It’s weird to lose five seniors and say that you’re happy with your depth, but I’m pretty happy with my depth right now,” Bowers said. “We’re sitting at about 30 girls right now. Last year we ended with around 24, so our numbers are a little bit stronger this year. The eighth-grade class is another big class, which is good to see, and the MGSA (Marshalltown Girls Softball Assoociation) numbers are getting better too.

“You’ve got to keep filling the cabinet with tools.”

Bowers has plenty of utensils for getting the job done, he says, so now it’s just a matter of doing it. It helps, he said, that a lot of his players have similar goals for the season.

“We did hand out a goal sheet and I asked the girls what their thoughts on team goals were, and there were a few who said they want to finish above .500,” he said. “That’s kinda where I’m sitting now, too. Last year we did win 11 but there’s games we left on the field. Looking back we could have won some of those games and been pretty close to .500, so I think .500 is a good mark for us to shoot for this year.

“You look at the roster and see just how young it is and that’s the realization that it is in Bobcat softball. I wish I had 10 seniors that had good softball experience but it’s not a bad problem to have when you’ve got that young talent. It’s so exciting for this year I think and obviously for the years to follow.”

The Bobcats kick off the season with a home game on Tuesday against Newton. On Thursday, MHS dives into Iowa Alliance Conference play with a doubleheader at Mason City.


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