By: Nathan Bloechl — firstname.lastname@example.org
Humboldt, Iowa — They graduated seven senior starters. They would be young all over the field. Inexperience a plenty. Who’s going to replace Avery Terwilliger or any of the other fine senior graduates? Can they even re-capture the magic from last year’s team?
Questions, upon questions were raised throughout the 2018 Humboldt Wildcat softball season.
Heck, even color me skeptical. I knew they’d be good, but this good, this quickly?
Alas, this year’s team; young and brash, grew up right before all of our eyes.
And on Monday night, they became the first team in program history to go back-to-back to the IGHSAU State Softball tournament in Fort Dodge, defeating conference-rival Algona 8-4.
“It feels awesome, really really awesome” head coach Doug Van Pelt said post-game. “It’s hard enough to get down there one year, we’re lucky enough to go again and it’s not an easy thing to do.”
Led by a ferocious sophomore trio of catcher Mady Lange, outfielder Carlie Thompson and All-State pitcher Ellie Jacobson and cast of first-year starters, Humboldt was able to capture thirty wins and will contend for a State Championship for the second straight year.
This Doug Van Pelt guy is pretty good, isn’t he?
Humboldt, however, didn’t make things look as easy as they usually do last night.
It was a hot, buggy night, with little to no breeze and it took a toll on both team’s starting pitchers.
Algona’s starter Brooke Fonley lasted only 2 1/3 innings, Jacobson labored through seven full.
But as she’s done time and time again, Ellie made big pitches in big moments to keep Algona at bay — they stranded, by my math, 13 runners — which aided Humboldt’s victory.
“We battled tonight, we competed hard” exclaimed Van Pelt. “[Ellie] threw a lot of pitches tonight, the zone was tight and she grinded. She didn’t have her best stuff, but she competed” said Van Pelt of his starter.
The Humboldt offense, which has been killer all season, continued to swing hot bats last night.
Mady Lange had four hits, including a clutch two-run single in a four-run 4th inning to break things open.
Senior outfielder Rachel Darling collected three hits, Ashlyn Clark had two hits for Humboldt, as well.
Now the Cats will have about a week off before heading to Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge where they’ll open up play next Monday versus the #5 seed Trojans of Atlantic High.
Van Pelt said they’ll enjoy last night’s victory for a little bit before focusing on Atlantic.
“I think it’s a huge plus for us [experience-wise] to be returning to the state tournament, most of these kids were on last year’s team, so that’ll help” said Van Pelt. “We’ll savor the victory for a little bit, then ramp things up practice-wise.”
With members of the 2017 5th-place finishers last season littered in the stands last night — and really all season — the 2018 squad continued their legacy.
Now they get a chance to better it.