Serving O'Brien & Clay Counties

Growth shows in H-M-S softball program

Returning experience throughout the lineup for 2024

The growing pains that the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn softball program endured in previous years are paying dividends. With several athletes having multiple years of playing experience, H-M-S has both considerable returning talent and the ability to replace players lost to graduation.

"When I first made the move to the high school softball program, we were a very young team," said Hawk coach Stephanie Bronstad. "We have had the opportunity to play together over the last few years, only having to fill a few holes here and there."

Seniors Delaney Murphy, Abby Otto and Kinsey Schirmer return and are providing great leadership, and juniors Kamryn Ebel, Gracie Knobloch, Frankie Mohni, Addison Sheeler and Eliza Tewes are also experienced. Knobloch was first team All-War Eagle Conference and All-Northwest District last season, Tewes was on the WEC first team and Schirmer was named to the second team.

Bronstad said the focus in practice has been live hitting and pitching. Experienced players are helping younger girls get started in the high school program, and the team as a whole is working on implementing expectations and drills.

Four of the Top 5 hitters return from last year's team that hit .275 overall. The Hawks have improved their hitting in recent seasons and are becoming more aggressive on the bases.

"We have great power hitters and need consistent hitting every inning," Bronstad noted.

Knobloch, Ebel and Schirmer all pitched at the varsity level last year. Overall, the staff had a 5.33 earned run average.

"They have been working hard in the offseason and it is really paying off for them," Bronstad said.

The lineup in the field depends on who is in the pitcher's circle. The Hawks were a strong defensive team in 2023 (.902 fielding percentage) and Bronstad feels they will continue to improve.

"Our success will depend on our defense," she said.

The 2023 Hawks improved their win-loss records to 12-14 overall and 5-5 in the War Eagle Conference. Bronstad thinks Remsen St. Mary's (1A No. 5) and Hinton (2A No. 10) will be near the top of the standings this summer.

"We always try to inspire the team to be better than last year so I would like to see us close to the top, as each year we have made strides moving up in the conference," she said.

There will be other ways to assess the team when the season concludes.

"I believe our success as a team, and individually, is improving each and every game. Success is defined beyond batting averages and stats," Bronstad observed. "As a coach, I want the players to learn successful skills such as teamwork, leadership and confidence as a person, and be able to apply that to all aspects of their lives. Being able to enjoy high school, athletics and the relationships they build throughout will help them become a better player and all-around person."