NORFOLK, Neb. – The Northeast Community College softball team is ready to get back on the field after a long wait, 347 days to be exact.
The Hawks will hit the road to face North Platte Community College at 9:30 a.m. and McCook Community College at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Presentation College Dome in Aberdeen, S.D.
Leading the Hawks this season will be a talented sophomore class that has seen quality playing time since their freshmen year. Power-hitting catcher Maggie Berryman (Norfolk, Neb.) notched a .344 batting average, two home runs, a triple and a double in a shortened season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a freshman, Berryman registered a .336 batting average, 41 RBI and nine home runs. Fellow sophomore Alyssa Turner (Columbus, Neb.) hit .444 in 10 games last season, tallying 13 runs, seven RBI and two doubles.
“We are looking for a sense of calm with our sophomore class,” head coach Iris Woodhead said. “With our spring season cut short last year, our sophomores didn’t get as much experience as they needed, but we were able to get past the first game jitters. We are looking for our sophomores to step up and lead our freshmen, showing and telling them that this is just another game.”
Along with Berryman and Turner, Vada Kruse (Norfolk, Neb.) and Brianna Aguilera (Pierce, Neb.) are ready to be leaders and guide the Hawks through a tough 56-game schedule.
“The short spring that we were able to have, left a bad taste in our mouths,” Woodhead added. “We had a few games that we were not able to hold onto a multiple-run lead. That’s been a big drive for us this fall and something we know we want to avoid. We have worked hard on our leadership skills, mental toughness and our accountability. While mistakes happen, we want to choose to leave them in the past and stay in the present during games. Every single person on the roster contributes to wins and losses. We are hoping this understanding pushes us beyond expectations.”
The Hawks bring back two reliable arms in the circle as Kierra Stewart (Dodge, Neb.) and Sydney Schmitz (Nebraska City, Neb.) return to guide Northeast. Stewart threw 20 innings last season and tallied a 3.73 ERA, while Schmitz tossed 22 innings and went 1-1 in the shortened season. Coach Woodhead was able to ink pitchers Alondra Martinez (Grand Island, Neb.) and Greta Lindberg (Tekamah, Neb.) to provide depth in the pitcher’s circle.
Throughout the lineup, the Hawks will have a few new faces that will push for immediate playing time. Freshman Jade Koch (Norfolk, Neb.) and sophomores Chantel Julian (Roseville, Calif.), Lauryn Cardenas (Gothenburg, Neb.) and Morgan Haner (Sterling, Neb.) will look to become everyday starters for Northeast.
“We are very young this year, our sophomores are not much different than our freshmen because of our shortened season,” Woodhead said. “Our only expectation of the freshmen class is to be present and give their best every day. We expect our freshmen to contribute in key positions this year. We have been impressed with the talent level of our freshmen this fall with inter-squad scrimmages, but we still have so much growth needed.”
With warmer weather on the horizon, the Hawks will be ready to fill the bleachers for their first home doubleheader in almost a year. The Hawks will host Concordia University JV in a doubleheader at 3 and 5 p.m. on March 3 in Norfolk.
“We are really looking forward to warm weather and watching our players compete,” Woodhead said.