The Washington Demon softball team kicks off their season on Wednesday, and the team might look a bit different than they have for the past four years.
Last year Washington graduated four key seniors to the last two Demon state softball trips, and will look to find some way to replace them. The Demons lost leading hitter, slugger, and catcher Kaitlin Buchholz, leadoff hitter and second baseman Maddie Bohr, No. 2 hitter, centerfielder and sacrifice bunter Sammy Ellingson, and a vacuum at third base in Joni Erwin.
Demon head softball coach Angie Shrader recognizes the situation, especially offensively.
“It is going to be interesting defensively, I think we’re going to match-up with what we had last year. I think our kids can fill those voids defensively of our graduating seniors, I think offensively is where we might struggle a little bit, just because of the different type of hitting we will have this year. I mean obviously Maddie [Bohr] was an amazing leadoff hitter, and Sammy [Ellingson] was an unbelievable bunter, and those two are a type of position that it will be hard to replace,” Shrader said.
Returning for the Demons is Ashley Rausch, who went 17-11 last year with a 2.42 ERA and had 109 strikeouts. Rausch struggled a little at the beginning of the season, but turned it on at the end of the season when Washington needed it most to qualify for state. Rausch will be called upon a lot this year, with the No. 2 pitcher of Bohr gone, the Demons will use Amber Linnenkamp to relieve Rausch.
Also on the defensive side, Washington brings back Kolbi Breard who was a fantastic fill in at first last year, Grace Redlinger back to short, Stephanie Fishback returns to the outfield as well as Chayse Jaspering. The Demons still need to fill another outfield spot, catcher, second base and third base.
Offensively, the Demons do lose the one-two punch of Bohr and Ellingson, but bring back some solid hitting and speed with Fishback who hit .331 last year. Rausch returns as the most consistent bat with a .413 average and three homeruns, and Redlinger brings the power with six homeruns. Kolbi Breard hit .291 in her first season, and Jaspering hit .255.
Washington will need the veterans to stay consistent throughout the year, and a younger player or two to step up to make up for the loss of the seniors, but they should stay very competitive within the conference, and battle for another state birth come July.
The Demons first game is at home on Wednesday against Columbus, and you can hear all of the action right here on AM and FM KCII.