By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
With five returning all-conference players from a team that won the Tri-Rivers Conference championship and went 35-6 overall, the Monticello High School softball team is brimming with optimism.
The rest of the state has taken notice too; Monticello was ranked seventh in Class 3A to start the season.
The Panthers also hope to advance deeper into the regional tournament. Last season, they were edged in the second round by Dyersville Beckman.
This year’s team has the starting battery back, with first-team all-conference pitcher Erin Hosch and first team all-conference catcher Lael Lubben back. Hosch, a senior, posted a 26-4 record with a 2.16 earned-run average, and batted .307. Lubben, also a senior, hit .383 with 30 RBIs.
They are joined by senior infielder Paxtyn Keleher, another first team selection who hit .409 with 36 RBIs last season; senior outfielder Allison Kraus, a second-team pick who hit .399 with 30 RBIs; freshman infielder Sonya McCormick, a second-team selection who hit .393 with 45 RBIs; and sophomore first baseman Kori Bohlken, who hit .310 with 22 RBIs.
Other returning letter-winners include outfielders Andrea Bone, Kennedy Kraus and Anna Finger; pitchers Hannah Thompson and Mara Mescher; and infielder Macey Spensley.
“We have experienced pitching and an experienced hitting lineup,” third-year coach Tiffany Rave said. “Our goal is to show up and compete every day.”
Rave said Alburnett and North-Linn may be the toughest conference opponents this year.
Andrea Janssen is the varsity assistant coach, and Brooke Stahlberg coaches the junior varsity.