SE softball squad back for more

Fresh off its fourth state appearance in school history, the cupboard remains far from bare this season for the St. Edmond softball team.

Last summer, the Gaels finished sixth in the Class 2A field at Rogers Sports Complex. SEHS compiled a 27-10 overall mark, including 15-3 in the North Central Conference.

“We’re really excited for this season,” said third-year St. Edmond head coach Paul Hunt. “I know a lot of the girls last year felt disappointed after the (state quarterfinal) loss to Ridge View, but I really thought that game kind of pushed us to a more consistent level. It’s been a good motivation for the girls. We have a lot of talent in a lot of different places coming back, so it should be interesting to see how we replace our big graduating class.”

Headlining the Gael lineup once again will be seniors Jessica Kuebler and Cassie Sells, juniors Jaci Stumpf, Anna Yung, Brigid Hanley and Amanda Lansman and freshman Maggie Harvey. Gone from 2013 are reliable performers Katie Donnelly, Josie Heesch, Allie Oberg and Katy Bocken.

Kuebler, Oberg and Harvey were each named to the all-NCC top squad for SEHS a year ago, while Donnelly, Yung and Stumpf all landed on the second team. Kuebler was one of six unanimous picks.

“Our goal has been pretty consistent in that we want to be in the top eight at the end of the year,” said Hunt. “It would be great if we could make the (state) tournament again. We’ve also been just a game away from (winning) conference the past two years, but we’re hoping this is the year we can get a championship.”

Lansman will now see a majority of time in the circle after going 6-2 – with 62 strikeouts and 51 hits allowed – in 62 2/3 innings of work last season. Junior Shannon Flaherty will also be counted on as a pitcher.

“For those that haven’t had a chance to see her, Lansman is kind of a hidden gem,” Hunt said. “We threw Katie out there more than we needed to in her senior year, but Amanda has great talent and has really developed the past two seasons.

“We’re expecting a lot out of her. She’s becoming a leader and gives confidence to the defense behind her. I think she’ll swing the bat well in the No. 3 hole, too.”

Infield

Returning behind the dish is Harvey, who paced the green and white in hits (50), home runs (4) and slugging percentage (.782) to go along with a .495 average, 28 runs, 20 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 34 games as an eighth-grader.

“Maggie is itching to back up her real strong eighth-grade year and wants to compete at that same level,” said Hunt. “She sets high goals for herself. I fully expect her to be the cornerstone of our defense.”

Covering first base will be Kuebler. The Iowa Central recruit batted .394 with 39 hits and 20 RBI as a junior.

“It’s been nice seeing Jessica get comfortable in the field,” Hunt said. “She’s looking really strong over at first right now.”

Splitting duties at second base will be freshman Megan Flattery and sophomore Lily Peterson.

“We’re going to have kind of a duo at second at the start of the year,” said Hunt. “Both Megan and Lily have had a little varsity experience (Flattery and Peterson played in a combined 30 games last year) and have put good at-bats together.”

Penciled in at the hot corner is junior Brigid Hanley. As a sophomore, Hanley hit .288 with 23 hits, 16 runs scored and 14 RBI.

“The left side of the infield has been a strong suit for us lately, and that should continue with Brigid at third,” said Hunt. “She’s really trying to take on that role of driving in extra runs, too. We’re going to need some more offensive production from her.”

Yung, an all-state basketball player, will hold down the shortstop position again. She contributed a .292 average at the plate with 28 hits, 22 runs and 18 stolen bases in 35 starts in 2013.

“Anna keeps getting better and better defensively,” Hunt said. “She has a real strong arm and incredible range. I know she spent a lot of time working on her swing in the offseason.”

Outfield

Flaherty, junior Clare Flattery and eighth-grader Audrey Kolacia are battling for time in left field. Sells (center field) and Stumpf (right field) will roam the other spots in the grass. Sells managed 18 runs, 17 stolen bases and 16 hits last season, while Stumpf notched a .388 batting average with 45 hits, 19 RBI and team-highs in stolen bases (33), runs (31) and triples (6).

“Jaci is one of our three captains with Jessica and Cassie,” said Hunt. “It always impresses me how much of a natural leader she is. Our young girls look up to her, and our older girls respect her. I’m excited to have her in the leadoff spot again.”

Conference

In addtion to his Gaels, Hunt views Humboldt (22-10 overall, 11-6 in the NCC a year ago) and Bishop Garrigan (15-18, 9-9) as the league frontrunners. SEHS captured back-to-back conference titles in 2009 and 2010.

Coaching Staff

Assisting Hunt again this season will be his wife, Kasey.

“I’ve been really fortunate coming into this group of hard-working athletes,” Hunt said. “Our biggest thing is I’d like to see a little more consistency. We felt like we had a handful of games we lost last year that we should’ve won. Our goal this year is to play up to our potential all season long.”