The Albia Lady Dees will face a brutal schedule when they start play on June 15, facing a half dozen ranked teams in four different classes. And it’s just the way Coach Darren Hill and Coach Jani Dorpinghaus want it.
With a vastly shortened schedule because of COVID-19, Albia’s co-coaches want their experienced and sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Lady Dees to see top notch competition. “We’re gearing for post season,” said Coach Hill, “and we need our kids to see the best pitching and play defense against the best hitters we can find.”
That will include Class 4A #1 ranked Carlisle, Class 3A #11 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Class 2A #14 Pleasantville, Class 4A #11 Fairfield, and Class 1A #4 Wayne of Corydon.
The Dees won’t be able to officially defend their South Central Conference crown because with one game each against SCC opponents, there won’t be a trophy given this season. But they will be seeking an unprecedented fourth straight trip to the state tournament with nine returning starters. How does that happen with two players lost to graduation and only 10 starters in high school softball?
The answer is depth at the pitching position.
Albia lost two great infielders in Kennedy Schroeder at shortstop and Riley Leshen at third base and a pair of solid reserves in Taylor Colwell and Stacie Etcher. Schroeder and Leshen were on three state tournament teams. Schroeder, a second team all-state shortstop went from clean up to lead off and batted .505. Leshen was a defensive stopper at third base.
All-state pitcher Jena Lawrence returns for her senior season. She was first team all-state as a freshman and junior and second team as a sophomore. She was 18-5 on the mound with 132 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA. At bat, she hit .485 with 41 RBI and four homers.
MacKenna Jones, another starting pitcher, DH and a sometimes starter at third base, returns for her junior season. She was 9-1 on the mound with 90 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.47. She also batted .351 with 20 RBI and three homeruns. Lawrence, by the way, is a terrific third baseman, as is Jones.
Alex Beard returns for her senior season at catcher. She was second team All-State as a freshman and has been a first team all-stater as a sophomore and junior. An incredible hitter, she batted .538 with 43 RBI and nine home runs. All-conference first baseman Makenna Ross returns for her senior season at first base having batted .363 with 15 RBI. All-conference second baseman Abbey Griffin is back for her senior season at second base having batted .308 with 22 RBI, four home runs and six stolen bases.
The Dees’ entire outfield, junior Danica Workman in center, senior Abbie Martin in right and senior Ellie Martin in left is back. Spurgin may have had the highest batting average of any number nine hitter in the state, basically giving Albia two leadoff hitters. She batted .369 with 21 RBI. Martin hit a solid .333 with 24 RBI. Workman served as the team’s designated runner and led the team with 11 stolen bases. She batted in the .300s on JV and had a .143 varsity average.
Defensively, Albia was stellar. Spurgin and Martin were perfect in the outfield and Workman had a .969 fielding percentage covering center field. Beard’s fielding average was .996, Ross, .956, Lawrence .943, Griffin, .932 and Jones .900.
The team has a treasure trove of young players waiting their turn led by shortstop Lauren Bayer, a junior, who batted .214 last year on the varsity and was the clean-up hitter for the JV. Halle Hindman at catcher and Jade Boland at third base are also top returning reserves.