Wolves seek positive turnaround with veteran squad


 IRWIN -- With preseason softball practices limited to two weeks this year due to COVID-19 and the season starting three weeks later than scheduled, some have speculated that the players will be less prepared than normal for the first game.
 IKM-Manning head coach Joy Gross disagrees.
 Since spring sports were cancelled - along with many other May activities that accompany the end of a school year - softball practice has become a major item on most players’ social calendars and not something that’s just squeezed in among an endless ‘to do’ list.
 Attendance is up and the results are showing.
 “We’ve got every opportunity right now with everybody at practice for two solid weeks. We’re getting a ton done,” Gross said.
 “Everybody is on the same page. I don’t have to remember if I taught somebody something. The kids are excited to be here. They’re showing up at 7:30 in the morning for an 8 o’clock practice and they’re getting after it. It’s really a great atmosphere.”
 The Wolves graduated a pair of veteran hitters off last year’s team in Sammy Halbur and Grace Youngren but have an experienced squad back for 2020, led by six seniors and nine returning letter winners. Expectations are high to improve on last year’s uncharacteristic 10-16 overall record and 4-12 mark in the Western Iowa Conference.
 The Wolves’ likely opening night lineup will feature a battery of sophomore pitcher Bianca Cadwell and junior catcher Zoey Melton with senior Lexi Branning at shortstop and senior Joanna Freese at second base. Seniors Emily Kerkhoff, Mya Doyel, Mya Nelson and Miranda Benton will patrol the three outfield spots and multiple players are contending for time at first and third base.

IKM-Manning Softball Profile
2019 RECAP
10-16 Overall, 4-12 Western Iowa Conf. (T-7th Place); WIC Tourney Semifinals
Postseason Run - def. Tri-Center 12-2 (5 innings); lost to West Monona 10-0 (5 innings).
All-State Honors - Lexi Branning: IGCA Honorable Mention (Class 2A).
Branning was also named First Team All-District (2A Southwest).
All-Western Iowa Conference Honors - Lexi Branning, jr. (First Team); Bianca Cadwell, fr. (Second Team); Sammy Halbur, sr. (Honorable Mention); Grace Youngren, sr. (Honorable Mention).

Team Roster (Grades 8-12) -- Seniors: 4 - Joanna Freese*, 5 - Emily Kerkhoff*, 7 - Mya Doyel*, 8 - Miranda Benton*, 10 - Mya Nelson*, 24 - Lexi Branning*. Juniors: 9 - Zoey Melton*, 28 - Augusta-Lynn Newman, 29 - Erin Fineran. Sophomores: 11 - Bianca Cadwell*, 15 - Jessica Christensen*, 20 - Carlee Neil. Freshmen: 3 - Amber Halbur. 8th Graders: 2 - Ella Richards, 14 - Brooke Booth, 19 - Alexis Gruhn, 30 - Natalie Griesman. (* denotes returning letter winners)
Returning Varsity Stat Leaders
 Batting Average: Lexi Branning .377 (led team), Bianca Cadwell .265, Joanna Freese .264, Emily Kerkhoff .260.
 Total Hits: L. Branning 26 (led team), J. Freese 23, B. Cadwell 22, E. Kerkhoff 20.
 Runs Scored: L. Branning 36 (led team), E. Kerkhoff 16, Zoey Melton 12, J. Freese 12.
 Runs-Batted-In: B. Cadwell 18 (led team), J. Freese 15, L. Branning 14, E. Kerkhoff 11, Z. Melton 10.
 Doubles: L. Branning 5, J. Freese 5, Z. Melton 5 (tied for team lead), E. Kerkhoff 4, B. Cadwell 3.
 Triples: L. Branning 2, B. Cadwell 2 (tied for team lead).
 Home Runs: L. Branning 4 (led team).
 Walks: L. Branning 13 (led team), Miranda Benton 9, Mya Doyel 8.
 Stolen Bases: L. Branning 12 (led team), E. Kerkhoff 6, Carlee Neil 5, J. Freese 5, M. Benton 4, B. Cadwell 4.
 On-Base Percentage: L. Branning .494 (led team), E. Kerkhoff .326, M. Benton .324, J. Freese .297, B. Cadwell .291.
 Pitching W-L Record: B. Cadwell 10-16 (pitched all 26 games).
 Innings Pitched: B. Cadwell 158.0.
 Earned Run Average: B. Cadwell 3.72. WHIP: B. Cadwell 1.70.
 Strikeouts: B. Cadwell 88.

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