Seven teams from Yankton are among the record 191 teams entered in the South Dakota USA Softball State Fastpitch Tournament, today (Friday) through Sunday in Sioux Falls. Play for the 10-under and 12-under teams will take place at Harmodon Park, with the older divisions held at Sherman Park.
The Yankton Fury 18s and Fury 16s will play in the ‘A’ division of their respective age groups. The Fury Red and Fury Black, both in the 14-under division, the Fury Twisters and Fury Hornets, both in the 12-under division, and the Fury Gazelles, in the 10-under division, will play in the ‘B’ division of their respective age groups.
Here is a quick look at the seven Yankton teams.
Yankton’s oldest softball team wasn’t going to shy away from a challenge this season. That’s why Coach Doug Marquardt has the Fury 18s (22-12-1) as one of the six teams in the ‘A’ division.
“We had one loss to a ‘B’ team this year. We were 5-0 against who I would consider the top three teams in ‘B,’” Coach Marquardt said. “We could have been the favorite in ‘B,’ but that’s not what we’re about.”
Part of what has helped the Fury 18s to a strong season is a pair of talented pitchers, Tori Herrboldt (12-5, 3.42 ERA, 108 K in 106 1/3 IP) and Mikayla Kelley (8-2, 1.33 ERA, 27 K in 31 2/3 IP).
“They each bring certain things to the table,” Coach Marquardt said. “But they both have high energy. They are both more than capable.”
The team has had high-level talent, including Elsie Marquardt (.390, 7 doubles, 24 RBI), who will play at Northwestern (Iowa) next spring, and added more. Peyton Senger (.381, 3 doubles, 10 RBI), who played at Dakota Wesleyan this past spring, and Haley Linke (.250, 1 double, 6 RBI), a DWU recruit, joined the roster to add both leadership and depth.
“We were able to add the right girls, not just a body,” Coach Marquardt said. “We have a good, positive, low-drama team.”
The Fury 18s also have a young squad. All but Senger are young enough to play again next year, and several members of the team could be playing in the 16-Under division this year.
Faith Sparks (.372, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 24 runs, 10 RBI), Hannah Lindula (.338, 1 HR, 7 RBI), Johanna Jelsma (.325, 2 doubles, 5 RBI) and Herrboldt (.306, 4 doubles, 7 RBI) have also hit over .300. Olivia Larson (.297, 3 doubles, 15 RBI) is just off that clip. Larkyn Mason (.279, 2 RBI, 9 runs), Kelley (.245, 2 doubles, 8 RBI), Kayli Jelsma (.234, 13 RBI) and Sarah Stoddard (.233, 3 RBI) have also played key roles throughout the season.
The Fury 18s open play late tonight, facing the winner of the Vermillion Flamez/Sioux Falls Fury matchup in an 8 p.m. contest.
“I’m hoping to see some good ball,” Coach Marquardt said. “We know what we need to do. We know we can play with the majority of the bracket.
“But we have to be on our toes.”
The Fury 16s have had an “up and down season,” according to Coach Chad Madson.
The squad, which won the 14-Under ‘B’ division tournament last year, spent most of the season without pitcher Lexi Madson and first baseman Carley LaFrentz. Then, as Lexi Madson finally returned to the lineup, the team lost second baseman Emma Sedlacek due to injury.
“Our players have had to adjust,” Coach Madson said. “But the girls have come together now. We were top-10 in the Ringneck (tournament) out of about 32 teams. The girls played very well.”
Besides those players, the Fury 16s roster features Addison Sedlacek (CF), Addi Binde (3B), Paige Gullikson (2B/LF), Elle Feser (C/SS), Jadyn Hubbard (RF), Lainie Keller (C/SS) and Jenna Cox (1B/C).
“Addi has six home runs this year, and Elle has a grand slam and a couple other home runs,” Coach Madson said. “The girls have really brought their bats to the game.”
The Fury 16s open play this afternoon against the South Dakota Renegades, a 12:30 p.m. contest. Moving up in age bracket, along with moving up a division, has been “a little bit of an adjustment for us,” Coach Madson said. “It will make it a good challenge.”
It’s a challenge Coach Madson feels is team is ready for.
“I’d like to see us in the top three,” he said. “I would be extremely happy if we were in the top three, but we will have our work cut out for us.”
After a sub-.500 record last season, the Fury Black have turned a corner this year, going 27-20-1 despite moving up into an older age bracket.
“We’ve taken a step forward,” said Coach Brad Moser. “We’ve shown pretty good improvement.”
One area of major improvement, according to Coach Moser, was offense.
“Our batting has improved quite a bit,” he said. “We’re starting to understand technique, pick up pitches quicker.”
Payton Moser (.529, 2 HR, 2 triples, 6 doubles, 40 RBI) and Olivia Binde (.492, 1 HR, 6 triples, 4 doubles, 48 RBI) have been sparkplugs in the order, with Caitlin Guenther (.389, 1 double, 4 RBI), Camryn Koletzky (.376, 3 triples, 6 doubles, 29 RBI), Emma Eichacker (.313, 3 HR, 3 triples, 12 doubles, 33 RBI), Mikayla Humpal (.304, 8 doubles, 18 RBI) and Hope Lesher (.300, 1 double, 9 RBI) all batting .300 or better. Lenae Wiersma (.276, 1 HR, 1 triple, 1 double, 18 RBI), Emma Herrboldt (.264, 1 HR, 1 triple, 5 doubles, 27 RBI), Chloe Vander Tuig (.256, 2 doubles, 18 RBI) and Teighlor Karstens (.247, 20 RBI) have all contributed key hits throughout the season.
Coach Moser credits the improved offense to an early-season emphasis.
“Before the season we put a lot of practice time in,” he said. “It’s carried over into the season.”
Binde (7-7, 7.48 ERA, 88 K in 92 2/3 IP), Karstens (6-2, 5.42 ERA, 53 K in 60 2/3 IP) and Koletzky (6-3, 7.29 ERA, 29 K in 48 IP) have served as primary pitchers on the season.
The Fury Black get things going early today, facing the Rampage at 9:30 a.m. If the Fury Black win their first game, they will play again at 3:30 p.m. today.
“I’m hoping to see a complete game,” Coach Moser said. “We’ve had some games slip by at times.”
The Fury Red (26-12) have “come a long ways,” in the estimation of Coach Chad Gordon. Their biggest area of growth: confidence.
“Their confidence in themselves has grown,” he said. “They’ve learned to make plays based on that strong confidence.”
Part of what has helped the team gain confidence is their better understanding of the game, Coach Gordon said.
“They’re realizing things quicker. They’re thinking ahead of the play,” he said. “They’re realizing that they are capable of making plays.”
The Fury Red have pounded opponents at a .403 batting clip, led by Annika Gordon (.500, 6 triples, 3 doubles) and Brooklyn Townsend (.495, 5 triples, 6 doubles). Camryn Zoeller (.446, 4 triples, 7 doubles), Paige Hatch (.443, 4 triples, 10 doubles), Grace Brockberg (.412, 1 double) and Izzy Wintz (.410, 1 triple, 4 doubles) are also batting over .400.
Bailey Sample (.389, 1 double), Regan Garry (.359, 4 triples, 8 doubles), Hannah Sailer (.356, 2 triples, 9 doubles), Tori Vellek (.351, 2 triples, 4 doubles), Olivia Girard (.344, 1 triple, 2 doubles) and Kayden Acuff (.222, 2 doubles) have also provided big hits throughout the season.
Sample (3.91 earned run average, 82 1/3 innings pitched, 107 strikeouts), Garry (4.73 ERA, 81 1/3 IP, 58 K) and Annika Gordon (3.00 ERA, 21 IP, 25 K) have picked for the Fury Red this season, with Sample and Garry pitching the majority of the innings.
“It’s shifted a little bit over the last couple of years,” Coach Gordon said. “Annika still throws quite a bit, but she’s solidified our defense in center field.”
One of the things Coach Gordon has tried to build into his squad is versatility.
“One of our goals has been to have kids able to play more than one position,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get kids in different spots. You never know when you’ll need someone (in a different position) because of camps, or injury, or family vacation.”
The Fury Red open play late tonight, an 8 p.m. contest against an opponent to be determined.
“It helps us by having fewer pitches needed,” Coach Gordon said of the first-round bye. “But it forces us to play later. We’ll play whoever shows up, and hopefully will continue to win.”
Coach Gordon is hoping to see the Fury Red play well into Sunday.
“Our goal is to make it to Sunday,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll pick up a couple of wins, keep moving forward.
“We’re shooting for top four. We’re hoping to have a good finish to the season.”
In their second season playing at the 12-Under level, the Fury Hornets have continued to grow in the game and as a team, according to Coach Sherry Gaskins.
“It’s been interesting to see where they’ve come,” she said. “They are so much more confident batting. We’ve had some girls who have had to step up and play different positions.”
The Hornets squad consists of Tori Hansen, Mia Donner, McKenna Eide, Aubrie Lloyd, Hailey Schulte, Taylor Hamburg, Madison Girard, Chayse Drotzmann, Quincy Gaskins, Addison Huber, Amarah Thomas and Andrea Miller. The team has a few new faces this season, and the squad has helped get everyone on the same page.
“They’ve come together as a team,” Coach Gaskins said. “They are all about building each other up. This team has been through so much in four years. It’s been great to see how much they’ve grown together.”
The Fury Hornets open play early this afternoon, facing the Spearfish Chaos at 12:30 p.m. A win gives the Hornets a second game today, at 6:30 p.m.
“Hopefully we can pull out those first couple games,” Coach Gaskins said. “Then we’d be in a good position for the rest of the tournament.”
The Fury Twisters had a transition year, making the big jump up to the 12-under division. But the squad has handled the twists and turns of the season in stride, according to Coach Amanda Bottolfson.
“We’re a young team. We have six that could have still played (10-under) this year,” she said. “It’s been tougher competition, but the girls have stepped up their game.”
While Coach Bottolfson said the team has grown in all aspects of the game, the team took the most leaps forward offensively.
“Their offense has cranked it up in the latter part of the season,” she said. “They’re swinging through solidly. Their baserunning has improved.”
The Twisters troop consists of Brenna Suhr (P/IF), Makenzie Stanage (P/IF), Jocelyn Behrns (P/SS), Anjeliena Schaeffer (1B), Alaina Nelson (2B/OF), Eliza Gurney (OF), Brooke Caton (OF), Chloe Hatch (C/3B), Kyra Tjeerdsma (C/3B), Hailey Bottolfson (OF) and Alayna Holstedt (OF).
The Twisters face the Metro Select squad today at 12:30 p.m. A win gives the Twisters a second game today, at 5 p.m.
“It will be a tough bracket,” Coach Bottolfson said. “We’re looking for clean defense and good offense.”
No matter how this weekend ends up, Coach Bottolfson is happy with the progress made this season.
“They’ve learned a lot,” she said. “They’ve really grown, progressed.”
Yankton’s littlest team, the first-year Fury Gazelles, have made big strides this season, according to Coach Cole Larson.
“They’ve shown a lot of progress,” he said. “I think they’ve grown a lot.”
Many of the players joined in on Yankton Girls’ Softball Association workouts beginning in November. The team held its first practice in February.
The group took a setback recently, when pitcher Ava Girard suffered an injury last week. She will be unable to participate in the tournament.
“Other than that, it’s been a good season,” Coach Larson said.
Headed to state for the Fury Gazelles are Elyse Larson, Kennedy Gednalske, Hannah Crisman, Isabelle Sheldon, Isabelle Gurney, Emma Gobel, Ellie Drotzman, Olivia Puck, Reese Garry, Kalli Koletzky and Daylee Hughes.
The Fury Gazelles first take the field at Harmodon at 11 a.m. today, facing Metro Select. The winner of that game faces the Watertown Thunder at 5 p.m.
“I want them to compete hard and have fun,” Coach Larson said. “It’s a learning process.”
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