Mustangs back at state

Rogers Sports Complex has become a home away from home in recent years for the Newell-Fonda softball program.

Now, the No. 4 Mustangs (35-6 overall) have another chance to build on their proud tradition here this week.

Making their seventh state tournament appearance since 2005 under head coach Dick Jungers, Newell-Fonda will face eighth-ranked Remsen St. Mary’s (28-6) in a Class 1A quarterfinal today at 1 p.m. on Diamond 1.

Prior to this season, the Mustangs claimed a 1A state title in 2008 and settled for runner-up honors in ’06, ’09 and ’10.

“I knew if things gelled this year that we’d have another shot (at making state again),” Jungers said. “It all hinged on (ace junior hurler Renee) Maneman’s shoulders and if she could develop into the pitcher we were hoping she could, which she was able to do.

“Our team made the plays they had to throughout the season, and this is the time of the year when it all pays off.”

Winners of eight straight and 18 of their last 21 games, unbeaten Twin Lakes Conference champion Newell-Fonda advanced to Fort Dodge with postseason triumphs over Ar-We-Va (13-1), Coon Rapids-Bayard (13-1) and Exira-EHK (5-1). The Mustangs are batting .325 as a team, while ranking first in 1A and second in the state in stolen bases (203). Newell-Fonda, which is averaging 7.6 runs per game, has scored in double figures 17 times this year.

Maneman (23-3) has been a consistent performer in the circle for the Mustangs, sporting a 1.63 ERA – with 189 strikeouts – in 167 2/3 innings of work. Maneman is also the focal point in Newell-Fonda’s lineup out of the leadoff spot, batting .504 with 63 hits and a state-high 72 stolen bases in 75 attempts. In addition, her 63 runs are the second most in 1A.

Sophomore Mackenzie Mandernach (.357 BA, 35 H, 35 R, 18 RBI), senior Taylor Lago (.336, 40 RBI, 39 H, 11 2B) and freshman Jordan Wilken (.333, 44 R, 36 H, 36 SB) are the other main weapons in the imposing Mustang attack.

“We have a very quick team once we get runners on base, and our athleticism and ability to cover defensively have been a big part of our success,” said Jungers. “Playing the type of schedule we did has also helped us execute in crunch time. We were put in situations where we were frequently up one or down one.”

The Hawks, who placed second in the War Eagle Conference, have prevailed in nine consecutive outings and 17 of their past 18. En route to state, Remsen St. Mary’s eliminated Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn (10-2), Storm Lake St. Mary’s (13-1) and Bishop Garrigan (9-3).

RSM features a dangerous senior trio of Anyssa Trejo (.488, 42 H, 34 R, 25 RBI), Miranda Staab (.462, 52 RBI, 49 H, 16 2B) and Makenzie Ricke (.459, 55 R, 45 H, 36 SB). The Hawks rank second in 1A in batting average (.393) to go along with 143 steals. Remsen St. Mary’s, which previously made trips to Fort Dodge in 1986 and ’99, is also second in the 1A state field in home runs (19).

As a pitcher, Staab (25-5) holds a 1.37 ERA, while allowing 150 hits in 163 1/3 innings.

“(Remsen St. Mary’s) has a very strong hitting team, along with a very athletic pitcher that’s effective working the ball in and out,” Jungers said. “We know we’ll have to be at our best (today) to come out on top.”

Jungers, who has posted a 381-122 record in his 13 years at the helm, previously guided the Newell-Fonda girls to state basketball runner-up efforts in 2008 and ’13.

This afternoon’s winner moves on to play either No. 10 New London (30-9) or second-ranked Martensdale St. Mary’s (30-2) in the 1A semifinals Thursday at 11:30 a.m. on Diamond 2.