By Greg Bates
Times Press sports correspondent
Last year’s dream season came to an abrupt end.
This year, the Seymour softball team is hoping to put a tough regional final loss in the rearview mirror and make a push to state. Having six starters return is a good start.
“We have lost in the regional final, by one run in extra innings, the last two years,” seventh-year Seymour coach Karri Vanden Langenberg said. “We need to continue to push harder through the playoffs. We are right there with these teams and we need to continue to prevent other teams from scoring and our team has to put runs on the scoreboard.”
What will be tough this season is replacing a solid group of seniors that graduated in 2018. Gone are shortstop Raven Vanden Langenberg, outfielder Savannah Thielbar, pitcher/infielder Joeley Bluma, infielder Kendra Johnson and infielder/outfielder Deiondra Wussow.
“We have big shoes to fill with the graduates of last season, but I am feeling good about where we stand in the conference,” coach Vanden Langenberg said. “Our team is ready and prepared to compete this season.”
Said junior Diahanna King: “Even though we lost substantial talent in last year’s seniors, we still have players that will be able to fill those positions. We have great team chemistry, which will only get better as the season goes on. Our defense should be strong all around with multiple returning fielders with varsity experience. After batting exceptionally last season, we plan on continuing our success at the plate throughout this season.”
This year’s Seymour players are looking to build off of last year’s 20-2 campaign.
“After coming off of a pretty successful season, we are looking forward to building off of last year,” pitcher Paige Weyer said. “We have a lot of key returning players, so we are excited to see what we can do.”
“We have great team chemistry,” junior Dinah King said. “From our practices so far, we look sharp and ready to play.”
Weyer is one of four seniors on the squad. Her and Patricia Nieland, who is a utility player, were key pieces of last year’s team.
Weyer had a solid year in the circle for the Thunder and will again be relied on as the workhorse.
Also back are twins Diahanna, outfield, and Dinah King, infield. Chloe Evans will be Weyer’s battery mate again at catcher. The sixth returning starter is sophomore utility player Sophie Wery.
With some solid players coming up through the system, Seymour will have a deep roster this season.
“Our team motto is every position is an open position,” coach Vanden Langenberg said. “Our girls work hard to earn spots.”
The coach is expecting seniors Olivia Wery and Aaliyah House-Webster to earn valuable playing time.
“Experience is what she can bring to the plate and we look forward to seeing her contribute,” Vanden Langenberg said about House-Webster.
Sophomore utility player Kylee Vanden Langenberg should fill one of the vacant spots left by a senior from a year ago.
“She will bring a nice presence at the plate,” coach Vanden Langenberg said. “She is versatile hitter.”
Freshman infielder Sam Nieland has looked good in practice for her coach.
“Young spunk is a great way to describe her,” Vanden Langenberg said. “Will bring offensive options to the plate.”
Lauren Klawiter, a sophomore pitcher/infielder is injured but her coach is hoping she’ll be back by May.
Despite losing some good sticks at the plate, Seymour should be strong again offensively. Last season, Evans hit .663 with a .755 on-base percentage. Her teammates also did well at the dish: Sophie Wery (.535 batting average, .667 on-base percentage), Dinah King (.444, .540), Diahanna King (.409, .554), Weyer (.390, .511) and Patricia Nieland (.316, .521).
“If we can put up the same batting averages as we did last year with this group, I think we will be great on both sides of the ball,” Vanden Langenberg said.
Seymour is coming off of a 14-0 record and its second straight Bay Conference crown. Repeating is a goal of the players, but teams such as Shawano, Menasha and West De Pere will stand in the Thunder’s way.
“I have high expectations for the softball program this year,” Diahanna King said. “I expect to take the conference title.”