WEBSTER CITY - The season couldn't have started worse, and it was still 2 months away.
It was in February that Webster City softball coach Jess Howard learned that budding freshman catcher Maddie Anderson - a second-team all-North Central Conference selection as an eighth grader and arguably the league's top defensive catcher - would miss the entire 2012 season because of a torn ACL. And it didn't leave Howard much time to find a suitable replacement.
"It's hard to handle when something like that happens just because you see the potential with a kid and you know they're going to have a great season," Howard said on the eve of the Lynx season-opener on the road against Fort Dodge Senior tonight. "The good news is she's young and she'll have three years left to play, but it was a shock to our lineup and we're still working on getting that ironed out."
DFJ file photo by Troy Banning
Kaitlyn Biere (above) is a three-time first-team all-NCC selection in the pitching circle for Webster City. She’ll begin her fourth year as the team’s primary hurler tonight against Fort Dodge Senior.
The defending NCC champion Lynx will still have plenty of firepower this summer in their quest for a repeat championship. After all, they've still got junior right-handed pitcher Kaitlyn Biere - a three-time first-team all-conference pick.
Biere led the league in wins (14), innings pitched (112) and earned run average (1.19) a season ago, and she was second in strikeouts (126) and opponents' batting average (.153).
And Howard says her veteran hurler has only gotten better in the 10 months since she last stepped into the circle.
"I'm sure there are going to be teams that see us coming that think man, she should have graduated already," Howard said. "She's looking really strong. She plays in Des Moines in the spring and she had one of the best springs she's had so far, and she just gets stronger and stronger every year. That's a tribute to her work ethic."
Biere has added to her already loaded arsenal, which will make it even more difficult for opponents to get a handle on her pitches.
"Last year we started relying more on her junk pitches and this year I think you'll see even more of that," Howard said. "Her ball is moving a lot more now."
Sophomore Kaylee Schnathorst will move from center field to behind the plate to fill the void left by Anderson. Sophomore Abbey Fuhs will also switch positions - from shortstop to center field.
"Kaylee played catcher in middle school and we've been working with her pretty hard on different plays and fundamentals," Howard said.
Schnathorst was also a first-team all-NCC selection a year ago during the 14-4 run. She hit .409 and swiped 26 bases at the top of the lineup.
Howard says juniors Erin Anderson and Emma White are competing for the starting spot at first base, and junior Tiffany Constable will return to her familiar spot at second base.
"Tiffany's got that veteran role and she's one of the soundest fielders we have," Howard said.
Freshman Mikaleh McCoy will play the hot corner at third in addition to backing up Biere in the circle, and eighth grader Allie Flaws will get the nod at shortstop.
The Flaws name is synonymous with softball - Allie's under Jim Flaws is a Hall of Fame coach at Carlisle - and Howard says her rookie has a chance to be a big contributor.
"There's a lot of youth there, but there's a lot of talent, too," she said. "She may be the fastest player on the team, but people have got to realize that she's a young kid, and young kids will make mistakes. But she'll live up to her name, and hopefully we'll see that this year."
Freshman Hannah Myers will take over in left field and Kayla Dawson will be back in right field.
St. Edmond appears to be the Lynx biggest competition for bragging rights, and the two will get an early look at the other on Friday in Fort Dodge.
"Our goal every year is to come out and make a run at the conference, but you've got to take it one step at a time," Howard said. "We'll see where we match up right away."