Experienced Panthers eye another stellar season

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

SARA THOMPSON, senior outfielder, will be a key hitter and defensive player for the Plymouth softball team this season. Thompson was an All-EWC first-team pick in 2012. — Review file photo SARA THOMPSON, senior outfielder, will be a key hitter and defensive player for the Plymouth softball team this season. Thompson was an All-EWC first-team pick in 2012. — Review file photo PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers are focused on continuing the outstanding success they enjoyed last softball season which was climaxed by an appearance in the Division 2 state tournament.

PHS returns seven starters, including six All-Eastern Wisconsin Conference players, among 10 letter winners from the 2012 squad which tied the school record for single-season wins with 22 (22-7 overall mark). The Panthers won the school’s second sectional title (the other was in 2006 when PHS was a state runner-up) and seventh regional crown, and placed second in the EWC at 11-3.

“We had a great season but we now need to build off it for hopefully more success,” said Panther head coach Gale Grahn who enters his 23rd season at the helm.

“Our goals are to work hard to improve each day, finish in the top three again in the EWC and advance again as far as we can in the WIAA tourney [postseason play].”

“We have excellent experience returning. We’re counting on our postseason success to drive us this year,” Grahn said.

PHS has two All-EWC firstteam selections back in senior right fielder Sara Thompson and junior third baseman Mikaela Holdridge. Holdridge is the Panthers’ top returning hitter – ranking second last year with a .368 average – and led her team in RBIs with 26.

Thompson was Plymouth’s third-leading hitter in 2012 with a .325 average and tied for second in runs with 24.

“Mikaela is a third-year starter and shows power and speed. She is the No. 3 hitter in the lineup,” Grahn noted.

“Sara, our No. 4 hitter, has an excellent arm and range in right field.”

The other all-league players back are senior center fielder Marissa Grapentine, junior pitcher Rachel Romps and junior catcher Sara Romps on the second team and senior shortstop Sophia Kiela, honorable mention. Rachel (Sara’s twin sister) had an impressive 2012 season with a 16-4 record, a 1.54 ERA, five shutouts and 154 strikeouts in only 134 innings.

“Rachel had a super sophomore campaign,” said Grahn. “She had two shutouts in the sectionals – the only team in the state to do that in 2012.”

Sara Romps tied for second on the PHS team in RBIs last year with 19. Grapentine was 12-for-12 stealing bases and was outstanding on defense.

“Sara is an excellent defender who threw out 40 percent of base stealers and had key RBIs,” the coach pointed out.

“Marissa has speed to burn in the outfield and on the bases. She is an excellent bunter.”

Kiela bats leadoff as she did last year and is a fine baserunner and defensive player. She shared second in runs for PHS a year ago with 24 and was 9-for-10 stealing.

“Sophia is our ignitor at the top of the lineup. She is an excellent baserunner and has great range at shortstop,” Grahn observed.

The other returning starter is senior first baseman Joa Cain who had 17 RBIs last season.

“Joa had a big hit [three-run double] versus Cudahy in the sectional finals. She is improving her defense at first base,” the coach said.

The other returning letter winners are senior outfielders Emily Marty and Hannah Kaiser and senior second baseman Miranda Stauss.

“Miranda, a utility infielder in 2012, will be looked at second base as we have to replace Steph Hunter there,” Grahn said.

Hunter, an All-EWC first-team pick last year, has graduated.

“In 2012, Emily and Hannah both were utilized as courtesy runners and filled backup outfield roles. This year, they will be left fielders and designated player/flex players,” the coach said.

The varsity newcomers are junior outfielders Brianna Sippel and Mckenna Nischke and senior first baseman Georgia Wise, a foreignexchange student from Australia.

“Brianna and Mckenna will perform utility duties and courtesy run for Rachel and Sara. Both are capable of playing multiple positions,” observed Grahn.

“Georgia shows good potential and is learning the fast-pitch game as we go this spring.”

“We’re still not a power team but we have worked on being more of that as a team.

“Pitching and catching are a strength with the Romps twins back. Our quickness in the field and on the bases is a strength,” Grahn indicated.

He pointed out the main keys to having a strong season.

“The keys are keeping mistakes to a minimum and using our experience to deal with any situation that should come up,” Grahn said.

“I am very confident we can have another outstanding season. As always, when it comes to tour- ney time, a lot of things have to go right to have a deep run.”

Grahn surveyed the EWC race. Waupun is the reigning champion, having finished 12-2 last year.

“Kewaskum, Waupun and Plymouth are probably the top three. Campbellsport and Kiel both return good pitching, so they will battle for top spots too,” he said.

Waupun returns All-EWC firstteam pitcher Jenny Reicher, a senior.

Varsity and JV
March 28 – West Bend East, ppd.
April 2 – GB Notre Dame, here
April 4 – Campbellsport, here
April 8 – Nicolet, here
April 9 – @ Sheboygan Falls
April 11 – @ Kewaskum
April 12 – @ Whitefish Bay
April 16 – @ New Holstein
April 18 – Waupun (2), here
April 25 – @ Two Rivers (2)
April 29 – @ Campbellsport
May 2 – Kewaskum, here
May 3 – Germantown, here
May 4 – County Invite, @ Sheb. North
May 7 – New Holstein, here
May 9 – @ Kiel
May 10 – Sheboygan Falls, here
May 11 – EWC JV Invite, @ TR
May 13 – Kiel, here
May 16 – Regional (1st round), TBA


SOFTBALL ROSTER Seniors – *Emily Marty (OF), *Sara Thompson (OF), *Sophia Kiela (SS), *Miranda Stauss (2B), *Marissa Grapentine (OF), Georgia Wise (1B), *Hannah Kaiser (OF) and *Joa Cain (1B). Juniors – Brianna Sippel (OF), *Mikaela Holdridge (3B), *Rachel Romps (P), *Sara Romps (C) and Mckenna Nischke (OF). *_ =_ _ R_e_tu_r_n_in_g_ _ le_t_te_r_ w_i_ n_e_rs_.______

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