NL softball to face Blue Devils’ big bats in state opener
The New London softball team opens state tournament play on Monday, and the Tigers are in for a big challenge right off the bat.
New London pitcher Morgan Christner and the Tiger defense will face the big bats of Martensdale-St. Mary’s, led by sophomore Nicole Shutt.
Shutt leads all hitters in the state with a stunning batting average of .667 and an on-base percentage of .711. She also boasts a slugging percentage of .970.
And she’s not the only dangerous player in the lineup.
Sophomore Kylah Schumacher is hitting .557; freshman Jamie Jordan is batting .459 and senior Katrina Devore has a .415 batting average.
As a team, the Blue Devils have a batting average of .423 and get on base more than half the time, making them arguably the best hitting team in Class 1A, and one of the best in the state. Collectively, they’ve struck out just 74 times in 32 games.
That should make for an interesting matchup, as some of the state’s best hitters clash with one of the state’s best pitchers.
Christner, a freshman, has the second-highest number of strikeouts this season in both Class 1A and the state (360), and opponents are hitting only .154 against her — despite the fact that she’s faced some pretty good teams.
“I’d pit our schedule against anyone’s,” New London Coach Paula Bliven said.
The Tigers are 30-9 on the year, but haven’t yet lost to a 1A team.
Four of their losses came against West Burlington/Notre Dame, which finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.
The Tigers’ other losses were to Class 5A Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 3A No. 3 Mid Prairie, 3A Central Lee, 3A Davis County and 2A Cardinal.
Martensdale-St. Mary’s is 30-2 this year, and also has yet to fall to a 1A squad. Its two losses were to 2A Central Decatur and 4A Ballard.
The Blue Devils have two regular pitchers, and each has one loss.
Freshman Riley Verwers had 16 wins this season, and an ERA of 1.62 in 99 2/3 innings pitched.
Junior Elizabeth Gerdes has 13 wins this season. She has an ERA of 1.38 over 86 1/3 innings.
Gerdes has 15 walks and 57 strikeouts; Verwers has 31 walks and has struck out 49 batters.
One of those two will face the Tiger hitters, led by sophomore Emily Parks with a batting average of .466 and an on-base percentage of .510. Junior Sami Koontz also gets on base at a .510 clip, and is hitting .441 on the year.
Christner leads the team in slugging percentage at .619, and hits .432.
“We’re going to continue to do what we do,” Bliven said. “We do need to get our offense going, though. Six hits (against regional final opponent Earlham) isn’t terrible, but we didn’t look as sharp as we could have — we had 11 strikeouts, and we can’t do that (against the Blue Devils); we have to put the ball in play.”
The Tigers’ state matchup is tough, but they aren’t scared.
“Martensdale-St. Mary’s has a great program, and they’re ranked pretty high, but there have been plenty of upsets so far this postseason,” Bliven said — and one of those upsets was New London’s win over No. 7 Earlham. “That’s why you play the game.”
The Tigers’ game starts at 1:30 p.m. on Monday in Ft. Dodge.