Players return, schedule changes: a look at the IWC softball season
The Iowa Wesleyan College softball team just finished its spring break trip to Arizona with its best-ever record in the season-opening tournament, and the Tigers, who return a number of players from last season, look forward to a year against new competition.
The Tiger softball team went 28-33 last season, ending the year with a loss to William Penn in the conference championship, 2-0.
The Tigers most notable graduation loss was All-Conference pitcher Sierra Garcia, who set a strike record at IWC.
From that last year’s team, however, the Tigers have three pitchers back and quite a few starters returning from outside the circle.
Sonja Holmes and Jill Leutscher will be back on the mound for the Tigers this season.
Holmes went 7-3 last season with a 4.26 ERA in 70.2 innings. Leutscher pitched 102.2 innings and had a 5.05 ERA. She finished with a record of 5-8. The pair will get more time on the mound in the absence of Garcia, and so will Ayla Serrano, who pitched little last year due to injuries. Serrano had a 4.75 ERA in only 35 innings last season. She also plays outfield and first base.
It’s hard to specify exactly where each Tiger player will be on the field this year, as many can play a number of positions. Right now, the Tigers have six players that could be in the outfield and six at first base, two players at shortstop, two backstops, three at the hot corner and four second-basemen.
The six who are expected to return to their starting positions are outfielders Tory Beaver, Ashley Stube and Kristine Becks and shortstop Ashley Mysliwiec.
Mikayla Dwyer spent some time at third base last season, while Samantha Shepard and Dayna Bundy were each behind the plate for a few games last year.
Another returner is Head Coach Mike Hampton, who is entering his 20th season at the helm of IWC softball with a record of 527-471. Assistant Coach Lexy Determan is back for her second year with the team.
Hampton looks to newcomers Haleigh Cowan and Kaitlyn Dirth, both of whom are from the area and transferred to IWC, to play key roles this year.
Cowan, a MPCHS grad, will play at first base and in the outfield, and Dirth, who is an alumna of Burlington Notre Dame, is a catcher and utility player for the Tigers.
The Tigers also add Kelly Wetherald to the roster; Wetherald played soccer for two seasons at IWC and has now joined the softball team as a utility player.
“We’re excited about the season; we have a mixture of youth with veterans,” Hampton said. “We will have to stay healthy and have good defense behind our pitching staff. Manufacturing runs and bringing in runners who are in scoring position with less than one out will be keys to our season.”
The Tigers’ schedule will look quite different this year as they transition into NCAA Division III.
“Our schedule is full of new opponents as we will be playing about 90 percent of our games against NCAA DIII teams,” Hampton said.
The Tigers got off to a good start in their new season, finishing their opening tournament — the Tucson Invitational in Arizona — with a record of 4-4, the best they’ve ever done there.
The team completed the invitational on Friday, defeating Howard Payne University (Texas), 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader and losing the second game, 7-6.
They were originally scheduled to host their first home game of the season on Thursday against Hannibal-LaGrange University, but that has been postponed.
They will play in a tournament in Elizabethtown, Ky., on March 16.