WOODWARD — Everything seemed set for the Woodward-Granger softball team in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2015 season.
Junior Dalaney Bice would return to the ring after finishing 15-11 with a 3.34 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 170 innings as a sophomore. That would mean the lineup would again feature one of the most feared hitters in Class 2A, as Bice had 52 hits and 56 RBIs while batting .559. Her 14 doubles and 12 home runs created a frightening slugging percentage of 1.097 and her on-base percentage was an impressive .643.
Then disaster struck, as a knee injury that would eventually require surgery sidelined Bice and changed everything for a team that had been 23-11 and 11-5 in the WCC in 2014.
“The girls battled through that adversity and handled everything that was thrown at them all season,” head coach Noah Bean said of his 2015 club. “With Dalaney out we lost one-quarter of our offense, and that put pressure on some girls would might not have been ready for it to have to step up and step up now.
“Meagan (Bandstra) and Miranda (Aunspach) in particular really elevated their game, and we saw great improvement from Kendra (Husmann) and many others,” he added. “We didn’t end up with the record we might have wanted, but considering what was thrown at them I would have to say I have very proud of how our girls reacted.”
The biggest challenge was, arguably, thrust onto the right arm of sophomore Riley Jamison, who suddenly had to step into the spotlight. Jamison had thrown 43 innings as a frosh and was 8-0 with a 2.12 ERA in duties that were primarily in weekend tournament games.
Jamison responded by finishing this summer with the second-most innings pitched in 2A (212-2/3) and a 13-19 record as W-G finished 13-22, 9-7. She walked 75 and allowed 222 runs (128 earned) on 264 hits while striking out 74 and posting a 4.21 ERA.
“Riley is the kind of pitcher that people are going to put the ball in play against, and that is not a knock on her,” Bean said. “We had to play good defense behind her, and when we did she looked good. I cannot say enough how much it meant to us to have her throw so many innings when it was not something she could have possibly expected to be asked to do.”
Jamison also hit well as she connected on 34-of-115 for a .296 average. She drove in 25 runs and had six doubles, a triple and home run.
Junior catcher Bandstra hit .417 (50-of-120) with 14 doubles and 35 RBIs, with junior shortstop Aunspach batting .389 (49-of-126) with seven doubles, three triples and a home run. Aunspach drove in 29 runs and scored a team-high 30 times.
Sophomore outfielder Bree Lesch also hit over .300, finishing 39-of-125 (.312) with four doubles, a triple and a home run with 28 RBIs.
Husmann, also a sophomore, had eight doubles and a triple while batting .299, with Annie Webb (.278) and Alison Soelberg (.268) also key parts of the Hawk attack. Josie Baumgartner saw limited action but was 12-of-31 (.387) with 19 runs scored.
Webb, Soelberg and Baumgartner were seniors, and Bean said their presence would be missed in any number of areas.
“Those three put out a lot of effort and were definitely our leaders,” Bean said. “Both on and off the field they set a great example for the other girls and their personalities will be hard to replace.”
Bean said players like junior Carli Major, freshman Kaycee Major and frosh Alyssa Bice all gained valuable experience this season, playing time that should benefit the senior and two sophomores-to-be when next summer rolls around.
“They all stepped up quite a bit this year and that is only going to help them,” Bean said. “I look forward to seeing what they will do for us next year.”
Bice, Bandstra and Carli Major will all be seniors, and Bean said that would be a definite advantage for W-G.
“Some years here we have had only one senior, but to have a solid group that have four or five years on the varsity is a real plus,” he explained. “After seeing positively we handled the adversity we faced this year makes me excited for next season.”