WASHINGTON — With a third team all-state selection returning to their softball team, the Washington Demons have high hopes for the 2020 season even though it has been shortened by the coronavirus.
“It’s going to be different, but I commend the girls union (Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union) and boys association (Iowa High School Athletic Association) for the job they did to make it a possibility for us to have a season and to do so safely,” Washington head coach Ben Obermann said. “All of the stipulations are very doable. They put stipulations in place to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. They also did so without changing the landscape of the game of softball or baseball. This is the best case scenario, and you often don’t get to live out your best case scenario.”
Taking advantage of a best-case scenario will be a driving force for the Demons.
“We are grateful for the opportunity and our girls will leave everything on the field each day, because of how quickly things can be taken away,” Obermann said. “Is there risk? Absolutely. The virus isn’t gone, but we have a chance to show other states how to return to academics and athletics in a safe and competitive nature.”
Obermann starts his fifth season at the helm of the Demons with a 72-81 record. The Demons were 22-15 last season and 10-6 in the Southeast Conference, placing them third after winning the title the year before.
“I see us competing and we can put ourselves in a position to compete for the conference crown as well, as long as we avoid beating ourselves,” Obermann said. “It should be a competitive conference where anybody can beat anybody on a given night again. Our conference doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, but night in and night out, there’s a lot of good games and our league has a lot of solid players that makes it a good little conference.”
Burlington is a traditionally strong softball program and 2020 will be its first year in the league.
“Fairfield is the team to beat,” Obermann said. “They won the league last season and return everyone that contributed to their conference title. Mt. Pleasant will be a tough out as well, as they return the conference player of the year, who can be a workhorse in the circle for them as well. With Burlington coming in, that adds another challenge as they have great tradition and are always tough. They will be right at the top of the league as well. Fort Madison will be improved, as they have a solid young core. They were very solid last year and lost a lot of close games.” Keokuk is the other team and they were 3-31 last season.
The Demons return a plethora of starters but lose two longtime starters in pitcher Molly Sparks and first baseman Haylee Wilson. Sparks had a batting average of .322 and Wilson .354.
The big name among the seven returning starters is all-district, all-conference, and third team all-state selection Kellie Dallmeyer, a junior who played shortstop and batted .461 with 11 doubles and three home runs. Her batting average was second in the conference as was her doubles total and home run total was fourth. Her 59 total hits tied for first. Her 45 runs scored were first by eight runs over second place. She was third in the league in stolen bases, reaching safely 14 out of 14 times.
Kinsey Duwa is a senior center fielder who was second team all-conference last year. She batted .310, with eight doubles, a home run, and her 16 stolen bases in 23 attempts were second in the league.
Twins Alexa and Kaitlyn Mitchell will be seniors this year. Both were second team all-conference picks last year. Alexa had a 2.69 earned run average, batted .341, with six doubles and 30 runs batted in, which was tied for fifth in the league. Kaitlyn, a catcher, batted .340 with seven doubles, a triple and 33 RBI, which was tied for third in the league.
Senior Halle Leyden was the team’s primary left fielder and Flex last season. RyLee Fishback played outfield and batted .258 avg last season as a freshman.
Junior Cara Linnenkamp, an honorable mention last year, had a 1.29 ERA and batted .286, with four doubles, a homer and 20 RBI.
“Pitching should be a strength for us,” Obermann said. “We don’t have quite the experienced amount of depth as we did a year ago in the circle, but we return two of our top three pitchers, where we return 127 innings.”
Linnenkamp’s ERA was the best in the league while Sparks was second and Mitchell was fifth.
The team’s was first but only Keokuk and Mt. Pleasant committed more errors.
“I don’t foresee us beating ourselves as much defensively as we did a year ago,” Obermann said. “Defensively, we have a great idea and great confidence in what we have returning. There are not as many question marks of who will play where in 2020, which should help with a shortened season.”
The Demons must develop depth and Obermann said two promising sophomres may help provide that.
Elyse Hunt has “good speed, is a good young outfielder and can be a great courtesy runner,” while possible first baseman Olivia Hamilton is a “good solid hitter with a compact swing who will be an option off the bench for us.”
Obermann said the Demons will be a more well-rounded team that a season ago.
“Offensively, we lose two very good hitters from the middle of our lineup, so to begin the season, a concern of mine is if we can become a deep lineup,” the coach said. “We return five very experienced hitters, but to win our conference and get to the state tournament, we will need some of our role players from a year ago and newcomers to make us a threat in the six through nine spots in our order. If we can become a complete lineup and score four plus runs a game, we have the potential to be a dangerous team.”
Dangerous teams have a chance to compete for a long time in the postseason.
“We want to peak and be playing our best softball when July 16 hits,” Obermann said. “After reflecting on last season, I truly believe we peaked a couple weeks early and went into a little bit of an offensive funk the last two weeks of the season. Our goal is to continuously improve day-in and day-out. If we do that, we will be a tough out in postseason play. We have a nice mix of experience and youth, and everyone has a high ceiling ability-wise. If we as a collective unit inch closer to our ceiling each day, we have the potential to be playing in late July.”