Last spring’s condensed schedule was hard enough on veteran teams.
On teams trying to break in new starters, especially pitchers, it was downright cruel.
“Last year we spent eight weeks in the gym and squeezed the entire season into three weeks,” Swanville head coach Tom Bzdok said. “We didn’t have time to work on anything once the season started. We need a gradual pace to settle into the season, especially with the younger players, so we can work on what we discover as our weaknesses once we start playing games.
“We are going to have growing pains,” he said. “What we need to do is limit our mistakes and continually improve.”
One thing the Bulldogs no longer have to worry about is throwing a pitcher with no experience in the circle, with the return of seniors Jackie Panek and Nikki Primus, who split time last spring.
“We need seniors Jackie Panek and Nikki Primus to step up and come through with the pitching for us. Freshman Kiley Loven will certainly have the opportunity to pitch as well.”
Whoever is pitching will have the benefit of working with a veteran catching presence in senior Ashley Maciej.
“(Maciej) has really stepped up and become a leader during practices,” Bzdok said. “I’m sure that will continue throughout the season from behind the plate, where I’m expecting her to have a big year.”
Also returning to start in the infield will be junior Simone Grittner.
“(Grittner) is an exceptional first baseman,” Bzdok said. “She will provide us with a lot of great highlights defensively, and I think her bat is really going to come around this year as well.”
Vying to round out the left side of the infield will be sophomores Ellie Koetter and Haileigh Sales after the departure of four-year starters Tiffany Barthel and Marissa Evans.
“Both played well last year and are on the brink of having standout seasons,” Bzdok said.
The Bulldogs also add junior three-sport standout Danica Hanson to the team, who is out for softball for the first time, and will also look for contributions from junior Bailey Loxterkamp, sophomore Sierra Karnes and freshmen Madison Beseman, Cheyene Graves and Sophie Larson.