Hard times haven't dampened New Athens softball hopes
The early season has not been kind to the New Athens High School softball team.
The Yellow Jackets, who were No. 14 in the coaches poll and had an 11-8 record as of April 22, dropped three of their first seven games in Cahokia Conference-Kaskaskia Division play, putting them in third place. That made the road a little more winding for head coach Conrad Widdersheim's preseason expectations.
“However, we are definitely trying to fight our way back to the top,” Widdersheim told the Southeast Illinois News in an email. “Also, we are playing a lot of tough competition in our nonconference schedule, so we should be ready to make another run come regional time.”
The Yellow Jackets know about going deep into the postseason. According to IHSA.org, New Athens earned three straight sectional berths before this season, including making the super-sectional in 2014 and last year.
Widdersheim said the team's strengths are its hitting and experience. Through April 22, the Yellow Jackets had a team batting average of .319 and an on-base percentage of .374. The roster is also stocked with upperclassmen: All but two of the 15 players are seniors or juniors.
“We feel like these girls have played in enough high-pressure games, like in our previous postseason runs, where that gives them an advantage against other teams,” Widdersheim said. “Our hitting has had its ups and downs this year, but I would say that in general we have some really good hitters.”
According to statistics on MaxPreps.com, junior Jenna Alfeldt led the team through its first 19 games with a .597 batting average and 29 runs. Sophie Cooper, a senior, was batting .466 with 21 runs and a team-high 10 doubles. Junior Bre Majzel was third with a .379 batting average and second with 22 runs.
Hannah Daab, a senior who was an all-conference selection last season, was batting .333 with 20 runs.
On the mound, freshman Julia Drake led the team with five wins, 53 strikeouts and a 3.48 earned-run average over 48⅓ innings.
Going forward into the playoffs, Widdersheim said the Yellow Jackets needs to work on the little things.
“Most of it is mental stuff, like pitchers knowing when to throw a certain pitch or fielders knowing all of the situations that they may have to react to,” he said. “I think things like that could turn us from a good team to a great team.”