The 2012 Newton girls softball team had quite an impressive season. The Cardinals went 21-11 in their 32 games, including a 9-3 record in the Little Hawkeye Conference en route to yet another conference title.
That team revolved around Courtney Meyer, who pitched most of the Cardinals’ innings last year, as well as being the best hitter on the team.
This year, the team has a new look with coach Ashley Ryan stepping in to head the program for her first season. Her plan for this season is clear, and although the team is losing an all-state player in Meyer, Ryan is confident in the team’s ability to put runs on the board while playing together.
“The tone is playing together. We play together, win together as a team,” Ryan said. “Offense is my big thing. I definitely want the girls to drive the ball. I’m looking to have a powerhouse offense. I’m not a small-ball coach.”
It’s an easy thing to say, but it’s a difficult task to accomplish for the Cards. The team’s returning players had a combined two home runs, both of which belonged to junior Madison Bagnall, and 24 doubles. Ryan will need to nurture the power of her younger hitters in order to make her newly-implemented system work.
“I’m looking for the girls to drive the ball. We’re going to swing the bat, and swing it hard,” Ryan said. “We’re doing a lot of drills to help the girls increase their power. I’m emphasizing high follow-throughs, which should help us drive the ball.”
As previously mentioned, Meyer was the team’s number one pitcher last year. She pitched 166 1⁄3 innings, more than 100 more innings than the team’s second leading innings worker, junior Ashton Hoffman. However, Ryan was confident that Hoffman will be able to take the reigns of the pitching staff this season and dominate the circle.
“Ashton Hoffman will be our go-to girl in the circle right now,” Ryan said. “She shows the most promise pitching-wise.”
The best returning hitters for the Cards include Bagnall, freshman Sydney Jenkins and junior Elizabeth Stock. Those three girls combined for 18 doubles and 36 runs batted in last season.
Jenkins will be competing at the state track meet this weekend in Des Moines, but she will jump right into softball mode come Tuesday. She had a terrific eighth grade season, hitting .402 with a .442 on-base percentage and nine extra base hits. The Cards will look to her to continue to improve in order to be one of the leaders on what looks to be a potent Newton offense.
Expectations for the program are typically sky-high, and following a conference championship season, that still holds true this season. The team returns all but four players from last year. The familiarity within the team will be crucial to maintain composure during what is always a lengthy season.
“Looking at what we had from last year, we have a lot of girls back,” Ryan said. “Yes, we lose their pitcher, but I think offensively, we’ll be strong, and defensively, it is coming around. We definitely want to continue last year’s success. We want to be at the top notch of the conference. I just want the girls to be able to give it all every game.”
The Cardinals will begin their season on Tuesday evening at Berg Middle school against Marshalltown.