July 12, 2024

Newton softball brings back plethora of experience, still seeks 20 wins

Nine Cardinals started at least 27 games last season

Hailey Sumpter

Newton head softball coach Kory Leiker has not backed off from his annual goal of winning 20 games.

And with a roster that features nine players who started at least 27 games last season and a pitcher who tossed 166 2/3 innings, the chance of getting to that number are about as good as they’ve been since Leiker took over as head coach.

“The goal never changes,” Leiker said. “We have everyone back. We didn’t graduate anybody. We have some talented eighth-graders, too.”

Mack Sims

Last year’s Cardinals finished 15-18 and were 7-14 in the Little Hawkeye Conference. They also went 1-2 against Grinnell, which left the league after the last calendar year.

The non-conference schedule lightens up a little bit this summer, but East Marshall starts the season ranked in the top 10 of Class 2A.

Norwalk and Dallas Center-Grimes begin the season in the top five of 4A and Indianola starts 14th in 4A.

“We want them to gel well as a team,” Leiker said. “If we can start the year the way we finished last year, we’ll have a great season. How ever they show up is how it’s going to go. I can give them all the tools, but they have to perform on the field.”

The roster features four seniors in Hailey Sumpter, Kadance Ahn, Peyton Durr and Haylie Ryan.

Sumpter is expected to carry the load in the circle after going 13-13 last season. She struck out 126 batters in 166 2/3 innings and had an earned run average of 3.86.

“She’ll be our workhorse,” Leiker said.

Peyton Durr

Sumpter also batted .330, had an on-base percentage of .417 and finished with seven doubles, three homers, 24 RBIs and 11 walks.

Durr will mostly split time at catcher and third base but also could see time at first base. She batted .280, had an OBP of .324 and led the Cardinals with eight doubles and 25 RBIs. She also had five steals.

Ahn will be the team’s primary shortstop. She batted .239 last year with an OBP of .311 and stole seven bases.

Ryan will compete for a starting spot in the outfield with sophomore Mack Sims and juniors Paige Benson and Katelyn Lambert.

Ryan batted .269 with seven RBIs and nine walks. She had an OBP of .380.

Sims will be the every day center fielder after leading the Cardinals in several categories last season.

She had a team-best 32 runs, 35 hits, four homers, 12 walks, 13 steals and 57 total bases.

Sims batted .321, had an OBP of .385 and added 19 RBIs, six doubles and two triples.

Kadance Ahn

Benson finished with seven doubles and five steals last season, while Lambert batted .330, had an OBP of .408 and finished with 24 runs, five RBIs, six walks and 12 steals while being hit by a team-most six pitches.

Junior Chloe Swank will rotate with Durr at catcher and third base. She batted .270 last summer and had seven doubles and 19 RBIs.

Sophomore Sloan Brodersen is expected to play second base after walking 10 times and stealing five bases last summer.

Sims, Durr and Swank started all 33 games they played in last season, while Sumpter, Lambert and Brodersen started 32 games. Benson started 28 of the 33 games she played in and Ahn made 26 starts. Ryan played in 31 games and started 27 of them.

Sophomore Ava Williams and freshman BrookLynn Britton also are back. Williams will be the primary first basemen after making 13 starts last summer and Britton could find herself in the outfield rotation after starting 15 games in 2024. Britton can also play second and third base.

“We still have some spots left to fill through competition, but I think we’ll run out an experienced lineup this year,” Leiker said. “We have some competitions going on so we’ll how it shakes out.”

Paige Benson

When Sumpter is not pitching, Leiker expects freshman Lelleigh Hammons or eighth-grader Lexi Frehse to be in the circle. Sophomore Tallyn Seitz is out for the season with an injury.

Eighth-grader Makenzly Brant could see varsity action and was in the starting lineup at catcher for the season opener against Grand View Christian on Monday.

The Cardinals batted .266 as a team last summer. Their OBP was .335 and they had a fielding percentage of .917 and a team ERA of 5.20.