Coming off a runner-up finish at last year’s district tournament, the Gering High School softball team enters this season with more high expectations.
The Bulldogs welcome back seven seniors who saw valuable action a year ago.
Gering will open its campaign on Thursday in a triangular at North Platte. The Bulldogs will take on Adams Central and North Platte. Gering will then continue its trip east to compete in a tournament on Friday in Aurora.
“The team is ready to go,” Gering head coach Tim Gonzales said. “We have played a lot of summer games, had a little break, and now it’s back to action. They are ready to go.”
It will be a busy beginning to the season with five games in two days. Gonzales said the Bulldogs are eager to get started.
“We are excited and ready to get out there and play. The girls were ready to play from day one [of practice],” he said. “We are excited for Thursday and of course both of those games are top tier games. North Platte is always tough and Adams Central is right in there, too. We got in touch with those guys and we had a couple open dates, so we all said let’s all meet in North Platte. We were going to be on the road anyway.”
A big reason for Gonzales’ high expectations is the talent returning from a year ago. The Bulldogs’ returning seven seniors are providing strong leadership and many of them saw plenty of action either as a starter or in a key reserve roll.
Leading the list are returning starters Kiana Island, Calista Muhr, Hannah Splattstoesser, and Kelsey Bohnsack. Others who played key roles last season and look to make a bigger impact this year include Ashland Todd, Victoria Brady, and Destinee Harden.
“We have seven seniors this year and we return a lot of girls,” Gonzales said. “There is some strong senior leadership in there. We have some good juniors and sophomores, and we have a great freshman class. We have some pretty high expectations.”
Gonzales said the defense will be a strength.
“Our defense is pretty tight. We have always had a really good defense and we always had some pretty solid pitching,” he said. “We just have to work on our hitting and then we should be good.”
Pitching should be a big plus with the return of junior Maddy Wiese, who was a key hurler for the Bulldogs a year ago. Wiese and Bobbie Claflin, who graduated in May, were the two key pitchers. Wiese started 12 games for the Bulldogs with a 5-3-1 record, while tossing 74.2 innings. Wiese had a 4.40 earned run average with a team-leading 89 strikeouts.
“She has put in a lot of work,” Gonzales said. “I don’t think she ever stopped throwing the ball. She played on a couple different travel teams this summer. I caught her a week or two weeks ago and she is moving her ball really good.”
The underclassmen are also rich in talent. Besides Wiese in the circle, sophomore Brylee Dean had a strong freshman season hitting .402 with 26 runs scored, 20 RBIs, two home runs, and seven doubles. Wiese led the team in doubles with eight, while also leading the team in runs scored (31) and RBIs (27).
“We are setting goals really high,” Gonzales said. “We definitely would like to win sub-districts, win our district game, and qualify for state. To accomplish that we need to play together as a team and take advantage of every opportunity to seize the moment.”