Newton High’s softball team is coming off its first winning season since 2012. The Cardinals went 21-11 and came up short in a Class 4A regionals semifinal game in 2016.
The Cardinals have compiled a 37-28 record under the direction of Kristina McNew. McNew, a former Newton High player, begins her third year at the helm of the Cardinal softball program.
Newton went 7-5 in Little Hawkeye Conference play a year ago, tying for third with Norwalk. Defending 4A champion Oskaloosa won the LHC crown, 10-2, and Dallas Center-Grimes was second at 8-4.
The Cardinals are looking to make a run at the top spot in the conference. Newton has six starters returning to the field in 2017.
Youth is still the driving force for the Cardinals as they open the 2017 season Monday on the road at Knoxville. Their home opener is Tuesday against Marshalltown at Berg Middle School softball field.
The Cardinals have two seniors on their roster with juniors and sophomores playing prominent varsity roles. Their leading hitter coming back is a sophomore and their top two pitchers are sophomores. Four juniors are three-year starters.
Lizzy Coyle and Bailey Davis are Newton’s seniors. Lizzy Coyle saw limited varsity action a year ago while Davis did not play for the high school team as a junior. In the 2015 season, Davis played outfield, hit .179, had 17 hits, drove in 15 runs and scored 16 runs. She hit six doubles.
Sophomore Anna Coyle received All-LHC second-team honors as a pitcher. Coyle became Newton’s ace pitcher as a freshman. She finished 11-5 in the circle with a 1.29 earned run average.
Coyle pitched 136.5 innings allowing 38 runs and 94 hits. She had 92 strikeouts and issued 26 walks.
Junior right fielder Karley Leiker and sophomore left fielder Emily Valtman were named on the LHC 2016 honorable mention list. It was the second year in a row for Leiker to receive conference honors.
Leiker had a .906 fielding average with three errors as Newton’s starting right fielder. She hit .327 right behind Jenkins, who was the team’s lead-off hitter. She finished with 38 hits, eight doubles and one triple. She scored 33 runs and had 18 RBIs. She was 8-for-8 on stolen base attempts.
Valtman emerged as one of the team’s top hitters leading Newton with four home runs, which was eighth in LHC.
Also eighth in the conference was Valtman’s .392 batting average. She had 33 RBIs, tied for third in the conference.
Valtman’s 14 doubles was third in the LHC and she had 40 base hits. She scored 23 runs. Valtman did not commit an error as the team’s starting left fielder. She also played behind the plate a few games during the season.
Starting behind the plate the past couple of years and back as a junior is Kennedy Leiker. She hit .200 last season and had 14 hits.
At first base is junior Taylor Ryan, who was second on the team with 30 RBIs last year.
Ryan hit .337 with 32 hits, 10 doubles and scored 24 runs.
At the other corner spot — third base — is junior Audrey Lucas. Lucas was a .295 hitter a year ago with 26 hits and 14 RBIs. Rilee Slycord, a sophomore, led the team in home runs with five. She is an infielder.
Newton’s other top pitcher back is sophomore Peyton Maher. She went 9-4 in the circle with a 1.98 ERA. She struck out 73 batters, walked 21 and allowed 72 hits.
Karley Leiker, Ryan and sophomore Maddi Thayer each have pitching experience, mainly at the junior varsity level.
Others on the team are juniors Harlie Durr, Rylie Bakalar and MacKenzie Johnson, sophomores Lakin Jenkins, Brittney McConnell and Shanna Ergenbright. Freshmen on the team are Kameron Johnston, Liv Whitten, Ashley Loehr, Anna Bebout, Jenna Smith and Malare Zach.
The Cardinals have two new assistant coaches in Abby Gehringer and Lizzie Stock, a former Newton softball standout. Gehringer is the junior varsity coach and Stock is the freshman coach.