WOODWARD — It is one thing to lose a key player to graduation, quite another to lose one unexpectedly to injury just before the start of your season.
The difference is an entire year to prepare as opposed to a matter of days, but that is the situation forced upon second-year Woodward-Granger softball coach Noah Bean, as junior pitcher Dalaney Bice will miss the season with a knee injury suffered while playing on a tournament team.
“It would be wrong to say we won’t miss Dalaney because we will, not just as a pitcher but even more so for her bat,” Bean said. “However, I have a lot of confidence in Riley (Jamison) and expect us to be just fine with her starting.”
Bice was 15-11 with a 3.34 ERA last year while Jamison was 8-0 with a 2.12 ERA, largely seeing duty in weekend tournaments.
“Riley is probably not going to blow anyone away, but we are going to have a good defense behind her and if she can throw strikes we should be OK,” Bean said. “We are working on a few pitches with her and I have plenty of faith in what she can do.”
Jamison, a sophomore, with throw to junior catcher Megan Bandstra, whom Bean noted had worked with Jamison throughout the winter.
“There will not be much of a drop in our pitcher/catcher relationship,” the coach stated. “Megan is solid defensively, has a real good arm and knows how to work with her pitcher.”
Senior Annie Webb will play first base, with senior Alison Soelberg at second base and freshman Kaycee Major at third base. Jamison will be replaced at shortstop by sophomore Miranda Aunspach.
Sophomore Kendra Husman will play left field, sophomore Bree Lesch center field and junior Carli Major right field.
“Basically our entire defense returns, with breaking in a new third baseman the only real test,” Bean said.”I am confident in our skills and think I have a good bunch of intelligent softball players. I also feel like we have the best outfield in the (West Central) conference.”
W-G was 23-11 last year and 11-5 in WCC play and only twice during the season had consecutive losses. The team hit .328 and walked 102 times while striking out just 100 times. The Hawks swiped 52 bases in 56 attempts and posted impressive power numbers, with 46 doubles, 12 triples and 16 home runs.
The loss of Bice’s bat (14 doubles, 12 HRs, 56 RBIs and a .559 average) is a big one, but Bean says he believes “there are no real holes in the lineup.”
“This is an opportunity for other kids to step up and get the big hit or make the big play for us,” Bean continued. “We have a few girls who have been waiting their turn and now they are going to have their chance.”
Conference rival Earlham won a state championship last year but lost numerous key pieces to graduation. The Cardinals will not suddenly disappear, and good teams in Van Meter and at Madrid will serve as solid tests for the Hawks.
“We don’t expect it to ever be easy, but we like the challenge,” Bean said. “It will not take long for us to figure out where we stack up compared to the others.”