BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Head Coach Tiffany Woodruff has a lot of firsts going to into the girls high school softball season.
The high school summer sports season, brought to you in limited release by Coronavirus 2020, happens to be Woodruff’s first year as head coach of the the Central Lee Hawks.
She’s also starting a fairly young lineup with just three seniors and even some eighth graders throw into the mix.
The Hawks play in the Southeast Iowa Superconference south division and finished the year 9-18 and just 3-7 in loop action in 2019.
But the Hawks started the year 0-9 and played the rest of the season at .500 ball.
The top two hitters from last year’s squad are gone including freshman Bella Steffensmeier. Woodruff won’t have the youngster this year, as the Steffensmeiers moved during the offseason. Steffensmeier hit .318 with 15 RBI and three homers last year.
Makenna Hall hit .317 in her senior year and is lost to graduation.
Woodruff said she’s just doesn’t have a read on who’s going to lead the team offensively, but said she’s looking for some leadership.
Juniors Daly Brisby and Andrea Benner are the only juniors from last year’s squad returning. Macy Watkins returns from a freshman year where she hit .254. She also started 26 games behind the plate.
Brisby hit .259 last year with 15 RBI at the plate and fielded at 84% from 3rd base.
“We got three seniors this year and their leadership has shown a lot during practice. That’s gonna help out a lot this year,” Woodruff said.
“They’re just the kind of kids that wanna play ball, and they wanna win.”
Hall threw about 60 innings last year, but freshmen Meghan Hopp and Sophie Turner combined for a 3-10 record and more than 100 innings in the circle.
“Sophie and Meghan will handle most of the pitching, but we’ll also have Shanna Buford, who’s an eighth grader and freshman Makayla Morrison pitching too. They’ll handle most of the jayvee games, but they’ll help out in varsity games. They’ve been working pretty hard.”
Zoe Eschman hit .250 last year in 80 at bats anchoring right field as a sophomore. Hopp hit .222 and led the team in steals with four.
Woodruff said it will be a unique year with the condensed season and the extra rules for players’ safety dealing with the coronavirus.
“It’s going to be a unique season. I definitely didn’t want to play a season like this. It will keep us on our toes, but we’re just happy to be playing softball,” she said.
Holy Trinity Catholic joins the Superconference this year, joining West Burlington, Cardinal, Van Buren, Danville and New London.
Woodruff said West Burlington should be the team to beat, but the rest of the field will be competitive.
“Danville, New London, and Cardinal are teams that can sneak up on you. They are teams that always seem to find a way to come back. It’s kind of anybody’s game in our conference. It just depends on how bad you want to win,” she said.
The Lady Hawks kick off the season Monday night with a 7 p.m. game at home against Danville. They play every night that week and take on Holy Trinity in West Point on Tuesday.