Could a state title be in the cards?
Senior third baseman Joni Erwin refused to jinx it. Head coach Angie Shrader said it’s the ultimate goal, but not something to think about before the season even starts. But this Washington softball team has a chance to do something this year that no other softball team in school history has.
Win a state championship.
The Demons were right there last year. Trailing Dallas Center-Grimes 2-0 in the seventh inning of the Class 4A state semifinals, they rattled one of the state’s best pitchers, fireballer Paige Lowary, who had been throwing a no-hitter to that point. But the Demons loaded the bases with two outs and were just one hit away from making it to the state title game.
Last year, the Demons didn’t get that hit, and went on to finish fourth in Class 4A. But with eight starters returning, all eight of whom earned all-conference honors last season, the Demons could win it all this year.
“With that many people returning, it’s more of a possibility than it probably ever has been,” Shrader said.
Last year’s squad reached the state tournament for just the second time in school history, and for the first time since 1997. But now the players have been to Fort Dodge. They’ve gained experience.
Washington finished with a record of 32-10 last season, the second-most wins in school history. The Demons won their first outright conference championship in school history. These players have tasted success. And they liked it.
“Obviously, my sophomore year we didn’t have a great year,” Erwin said. “It was just kind of so-so. Last year we found out how fun it is to win and to be good and to win conference and go to state. So it would be extremely disappointing if we didn’t do those things. So we’re going to do the best that we can to have that kind of season again.”
With Erwin, Southeast Conference Player of the Year Maddie Bohr, ace pitcher Ashley Rausch, four-year catcher Kaitlin Buchholz, bunting machine Sammy Ellingson, speedster Stephanie Fishback, cannon-armed Grace Redlinger and hard-working Chayse Redlinger all returning to the starting lineup, a successful season should be on tap.
“I definitely think we can [get back to state],” Erwin said. “We have the potential. Obviously eight of our nine starters are returning. I think that we all have the mentality and we have it in the back of our minds that that’s where we all want to be in July.”
But Shrader, as any coach would, is trying to keep her team grounded. July is a long way away.
“I don’t know that we want to think that far ahead, because our main focus right now is to get ready to play softball,” she said. “The conference title is your first step, and then making it past the first round of regionals, and then making it to state, and then a state title is obviously your last goal.”
And can the Demons win that state championship?
“I would love to think that,” Erwin said. “But I’m very superstitious, so I’m not going to say yay or nay.”