This is the fifth installment of a six-part series of columns that will look ahead to the upcoming high school sports year for our six area schools.
– June 21 — SCC Titans
– June 24 — Yates Center Wildcats
– June 27 — Crest Lancers
– July 1 — Humboldt Cubs
– Today — Iola Mustangs/Fillies
The Iola Mustangs’ run to the state tournament was exciting in its own right last year, but making it even more exciting is what the team returns this season for a potential return trip.
The Mustangs bring back seven starters with only Ben Cooper and Coleson Wiggin graduating.
Wiggin was the team’s No. 3 hitter last year and will leave a power-hitting void in the middle of the order.
Cooper was the team’s No. 2 pitcher last year and shortstop.
Defensively, shortstop is the big void and sophomore Cal Leonard appears to be the favorite to take that spot.
With junior Derek Bycroft returning as a First Team All-State pitcher, the depth behind him will include senior Ethan Tavarez and Leonard.
Tavarez’s increased pitching role will likely cause the All-State Honorable Mention selection to move from his catcher’s spot and to either a corner infield or outfield position.
Other returning starters are sophomore right fielder Calvin Delich, senior center fielder Isaac Vink, junior left fielder Kane Rogers and junior second baseman Blake Ashmore.
Despite the losses of top hitters Jadyn Sigg, Riley Murry and Sydney Wade, the Fillies have high hopes for next season and a major reason why is the return of junior Sierra Snavely to the team’s most important position.
The pitcher was a First Team All-Pioneer League selection last season and after starting nearly all the team’s games the past two years, she steps into a larger leadership role as an upperclassman.
Aside from Snavely, the team’s top returning hitters are senior Chloe Gardner and sophomore Kelsey Morrison, but both will likely be dealing with position changes.
Morrison played left field was a freshman, but will likely fill in for Wade at shortstop.
Gardner has anchored the Fillies’ third base spot the past couple seasons, but during the summer, she has worked as at catcher and appears to be ready to move there next season.
Joining Morrison, Snavely and Gardner up the middle of the team’s infield is sophomore second baseman Madisyn Holloway. Holloway hit ninth last year for the Fillies, but will likely move closer to the top of the order next year.
Other key returners are Sadrie Overall, Mia Aronson, Kendra Sprague and Gabby Richards.