MFL MarMac softball team aims to be in every game

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Members of the MFL MarMac softball team are (front, left to right) Emily Troester, Katelyn Gerndt, Kaitlin Picha, Ashley Shaw, Savannah Schaller, Ayla Gerndt, Kaylee Walch, Emme Wikner; (back) assistant coach Gene Gerndt, head coach LeVirgil Monroe, Devon Meyer, Autumn Shaw, Grace Palas, Hailey Bouzek, Mattie Hallberg, Morgan Jacobson, Kacie Picha, Lauryn Sandstrom, manager Desirae Kugel and assistant coach Venessa Rose. Not pictured are Garnett Niedziejko, Kaylee Baker, Jerica Wille and Hannah Jacobson. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


MFL MarMac’s new softball coach, LeVirgil Monroe, has worked with the Postville, Valley, North Fayette and later North Fayette Valley programs in varying capacities since 1985. During that time, he learned one thing about the MFL MarMac program: they don’t give up.


“I said to the girls the first day that it’s why I’m here. We’re going to try to bring this program back to its glory days,” Monroe said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but that’s what we’re going to work for. We’re going to develop pitching, develop players, instill the love of the game. It’s got to be fun or they don’t want to do it. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”


The Bulldogs are 20 players strong this year. It’s a number Monroe hopes to maintain—and grow.


“If we can keep our 20 and add five or six or so, we’ll get bigger going through the years,” he said.


That 20 includes two senior leaders, Ashley Shaw and Savannah Schaller, as well as juniors Kaylee Walch, Emily Troester, Kaitlin Picha, Ayla Gerndt, Katelyn Gerndt and Garnett Niedziejko—all of whom have previous playing experience. 


The rest of the team is youthful, but that doesn’t deter Monroe.


“You can have a great team with youth as long as they all play,” he said. “They are working at picking the ball correctly, and we’re looking at doing things right. It’s going to take a couple of weeks yet before we’re at that level, but what we’re bringing up is going to be a sound defensive and offensive team.”


With the graduation of pitching leader Lauren Haberichter, MFL MarMac will see some new faces on the mound this year. Monroe listed Troester as the go-to, and freshman Devon Meyer and eighth grader Emme Wikner as well as some other players, will see time too.


“We had as many as six in practices. We’ll try everybody,” Monroe said. “We want to see who gels and who doesn’t, who’s got the accuracy. We can’t walk people. We have to make them hit. If we can change up the speed here and there, and then later on our goal is to teach the drop ball and rise ball, maybe a curve and screw ball.”


According to Monroe, the pitchers were working twice per week before the season, gaining not only skills but confidence.


“One of the things we’re working on is you don’t need to understand how you did it, because it’s muscle memory. We even showed them by shutting their eyes that they could still hit their target because they go through the mechanics of it. They were just thrilled that can happen. I said, ‘Don’t shut your eyes on the diamond against a team,’” Monroe joked, “but it’s confidence.”


Shaw will largely serve as the backstop for this young group. The senior can play nearly anywhere on the diamond—and has spent the most time at shortstop—but Monroe wanted senior experience behind the plate.


“You’re the general and can see the whole diamond. With that understood, she said, ‘That’s where I want to be then,’” Monroe said.


All the players, added Monroe, have demonstrated a lot of teamwork so far. It’s one aspect they’ve been working on most.


“When the third baseman and shortstop have a chance for the ball, we’re talking. If that third baseman, when the play is at first, can get to that ball, it’s a clear shot for her to pick it and throw it. That shortstop has to back her up and have her back,” he explained. “Sure, there could be a screamer that can get through, but what we’re looking for is that they are always hustling, always on the move. We cannot stand and just watch the game.”


Monroe said success this season is simple: to be in every game. 


“We might run into a buzz saw that’s a ranked team, but our ambition is to get to that level. We can develop up to those teams,” he stated. “We want to play as long into the season as we can. We want to see how far we can go, and then, next year, we want to beat what we did this year. We’re setting goals and standards we want to always try to beat.”


The Bulldogs have three non-conference games on deck to start the season. They hosted New Hampton May 23, then will travel to Midland May 24 and Decorah May 26.

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