WYOMING - When it comes to wins and losses, and merely keeping girls out for the sport, things have been tough for the Midland softball program over much of the last decade.

      But after talking to second-year head coach Zach Hebl a day before practice officially started Monday, June 1, you’d think his collection of Eagles were going to compete for a Tri-Rivers Conference championship this very summer.

      “I’m just trying to stay positive and give these girls as much confidence in their own softball abilities as I can,” said Hebl, who guided the Midland team that suffered with low numbers last summer, through a 2-30 campaign that also saw a 1-22 mark against league opponents.

      “There’s plenty to be happy about right now, though. We actually get to have a softball season, and with the number of girls who we have back with experience, and our numbers up, I’m hopeful that we can get this thing going and become a competitive program again in our league.”

      Hebl said 23 girls have signed up to play softball this summer, which is a huge increase after a mere 14 were on the roster a year ago, and just 11 were remaining when the class 1A regional tournament started last July.

      “We’ll have our first practice on Monday (June 1), but right now I think we’ll have everyone back from last year expect for one,” Hebl said. “I was always optimistic that we would have a season this summer, but things sure are going to be different than they have been in the past. We’ll do our best as coaches to make sure we follow state guidelines and keep our kids as safe as possible.”

      Midland doesn’t exactly get to ease into the 2020 schedule either, as the team travels to North Linn on the first official playing date June 15.

      The Lynx, last year’s class 2A state champions and undefeated Tri-Rivers Conference champions (24-0), are once again expected to be one of the top teams in the league and in the state as the class 2A pre-season No. 1.

      Central City (1A No. 10) and Lisbon (1A No. 14) are also ranked in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union top-15 out of the Tri-Rivers Conference as well.

      “Right now, we’re working on trying to get about 20 varsity games and maybe 10 JV games for our girls this summer,” Hebl said. “All the conference games will be varsity doubleheaders with our JV team playing on a different night in most cases (Thursday, June 16, hosting Bellevue being the only other case). “I think we have the pitching this year to be able to field competitive varsity and JV teams.

      “The girls, led by senior Taylor Bahnsen, have been working on their own and sometimes in groups of 10 getting in hitting, fielding and throwing all to be ready for the season. Taylor and Brennah Ricketts have taken over the leaderships roles for this team and we’re all hoping to see improvement.”

      Bahnsen returns as the team’s top hitter (.273) from a year ago.

      Rashelle Cole and Jayda Thomsen, the two main pitchers for the Eagles last summer, both return while Allison Paulsen is also in the mix for another spot in the rotation.

      “We have three eighth graders who might be able to come in and add depth to our pitching staff, too,” Hebl said. “Sophia Raubs, Anna Bartels and Kyla Cole give us six pitchers we can look to this season, and that also allows us a lot of options and room for some to grow at the JV level instead of being thrown right in at the varsity level.

      “Basically though, we’re just so happy that we get to have a season, finally get to start practice and in a couple of weeks, start to play games. Having two weeks between our first practice and our first game is no different than normal, so that timeline won’t change. I’m just glad that we’ll be able to field two separate varsity and JV teams this summer. That should really benefit the program in the long term. We can’t wait to get started.”

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