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Huskies have eyes set on state appearance

GTNS photo by Doug Brenneman

The 2019 Highland High School softball team is composed of (front row, left to right) Grace Batcheller, Maddie Peiffer, Jessica Kraus, Abbi Stransky, Mylei Smith, Dani Laughlin, Carissa Brand, Carsen Mellinger, Mackinze Hora, (middle row) Kylie Wood, Alli Brand, Ellie Anderson, Jenna Sands, Sarah Schneider, Emily Yahnke, Kayla Cerny, (back row) Haley Sweeting, Shalyn Kirk, Abbie Miller, Aly Stokes and Megan Hoenig.

The Huskies are determined to make the state tournament this season.
GTNS photo by Doug Brenneman The 2019 Highland High School softball team is composed of (front row, left to right) Grace Batcheller, Maddie Peiffer, Jessica Kraus, Abbi Stransky, Mylei Smith, Dani Laughlin, Carissa Brand, Carsen Mellinger, Mackinze Hora, (middle row) Kylie Wood, Alli Brand, Ellie Anderson, Jenna Sands, Sarah Schneider, Emily Yahnke, Kayla Cerny, (back row) Haley Sweeting, Shalyn Kirk, Abbie Miller, Aly Stokes and Megan Hoenig. The Huskies are determined to make the state tournament this season.

Carrie Wieland is starting her 16th year as head coach of the Highland Huskies and her team has a certain aspiration for the 2019 softball season.

The Huskies plan on playing in the state tournament.

“Our team goal is to win conference and make it to state,” Huskies third baseman and catcher Abbie Miller said. “That is always the goal here every season.”

Wieland has been to state three times in her career as a coach, winning the 2007 Class 1A state title with a 4-2 win over fellow Southeast Iowa Super Conference member New London 4-2 in the championship game, then qualified for state in 2008. They made it to state when they qualified in 2014 in Class 2A.

“Our coach has a lot of experience,” Miller said. “She played in college and she is always learning new things. She changes the drills we do every day and practice.”

Wieland has a 373-209 career record, but the Huskies were just 14-13 last year after going 21-8 the previous year.

Megan Hoenig is a senior on the team who had a 12-9 record last year pitching.

“I feel like we have a very good chance to make it to state,” she said. “We have a very good team that is working very hard.”

“I expect a big season out of my team and out of me,” Miller said. “We are going to be good this year.”

Last year as a junior, Miller led the team in slugging percentage (.517), home runs (4), runs batted in (30) and tied for the team lead in hits with Aly Stokes with 27. Stokes is also a senior this season.

“I have been hitting every single day. We are trying to get everybody in the hitting cages often as possible,” said Miller, who has an advantage in that area. “I have a cage at my house so I make sure I spend time in that every day.”

Every team has weaknesses both as a team and individually. the Huskies batted .251 last season as a team.

“I think we need to work on our hitting because that is always something that can improve,” Hoenig said. “We want to be on every game and every inning.”

Even though she was third in the SEISC North Division in home runs last year and fourth in RBI, she does not swing for the fence.

“I’m not working on homeruns, I just want to get a base hit every single time,” Miller said.

A great season will require a total team contribution.

“We have some great talent from the eighth graders so I think it is going to be a great year,” Hoenig said.

“Coach is very encouraging, so that helps with the younger players,” Miller said. “She tells us as upperclassman to encourage the younger ones.”

Hoenig had a 2.63 earned run average last season, striking out 103 batters with 25 walks.

“I work on pitching in the off-season,” Hoenig said. “I started in January, twice a week. I have a pitching coach that I work with a lot but once the season starts, its a lot tougher because we have a game almost every day.”

There are intricacies to the game that are important for elite teams to be aware of.

“Coach wants us to learn the game for ourselves,” Hoenig said. “She wants me to be aware of where a batter is standing when I’m pitching to them. She’s really good about teaching me the whole game. I know I can get better if I understand it more fully.”

Making the state tournament will require effort and commitment.

“We are drilling really hard on fundamentals in practice,” Miller said. “We want to make sure that every little thing is perfect.”

Highland 17, Iowa Mennonite 0

The Huskies got a great start to their season Monday at Kalona with a SEISC North win over IMS. The game ended after three innings as the visitors plated 13 of their runs in the top of the third.

Miller went 4 for 4 at the plate with a double, a triple, a home run and seven runs batted in.

Hoenig did not allow a hit and struck out six with no walks.

Shalyn Kirk, a junior, also hit a home run for Highland and eighth-grader Dani Laughlin had two hits.