After a season without softball, the Belmond-Klemme Broncos are back on the field but are short-handed. However, the low numbers haven’t stopped them from starting red hot. The focus continues to be on 2021, but athletes to play could be a future problem.
As with the baseball team, due to high COVID-19 numbers in Wright County last spring, the Belmond-Klemme school board opted out of their softball season to protect players, coaches, and fans. That lost year made preparing for this year a little different for co-head coaches Shannon Muhlenbruch and Mikyla Hefti.
Not all the Broncos missed last season; sisters Madi and Allie Barrus played last season for Glidden-Ralston, a 1A school located in Carroll County. Iowa education head Ann Lebo allowed players from schools who opted out of summer seasons a one-year wavier to play for any school in the state without serving a penalty or enrolling in that school. Muhlenbruch said some of the other girls played in a traveling league which helped keep their skills sharp.
The extra offseason work has helped Belmond-Klemme to a hot start in 2021. Belmond-Klemme is currently 4-0, with all of their games coming in conference play. Their biggest test of the season could come tonight when they travel to take on North Union, also opening the season 4-0.
You won’t find one or two players carrying the team along, but they are clicking on all cylinders together as a team. Molly Hartwig (2), Ashlynn Willms (1), and Allie Barrus (1) have all homered. Willms and Barrus lead the team in RBI and are both batting nearly .500. In the circle, Maddison Dougherty has pitched all four games with an ERA under 4.00 and a WHIP of 1.00. She’s struck out 15 batters allowing just 11 walks. Ava Negrete, Aubrey Eckhoff, and Madi Barrus have all drawn at least five walks helping the teams on-base percent to nearly .500. Jennah Meyer has collected four singles batting .370, and sophomore Emilie Dougherty has drawn three walks and collected two hits to help anchor the lineup.
A conference title is still many wins away, But the Broncos are playing like a team hungry to make a run at the school’s first softball conference title since 2009. Since that 2009 team – led by all-staters Shelby Dougherty and Dana Christensen – Belmond-Klemme has only recorded two winning seasons, 2010 and 2015.
Though the focus is on this season and seeing how far this team can go, the lost season and low numbers could be a factor in the future. Most of the eighth-graders that gained experience in 2019 didn’t return to the team in 2021 following the missed season.
The 13 girls in the program consist of three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores, one freshman, and two eighth-graders. Though a good run to restore the history and tradition of Belmond-Klemme softball could spark the interest of those not currently on the diamond.
Zarren Egesdal is the sports director for Coloff Media radio stations KIOW and KHAM. He can be reached daily at firstname.lastname@example.org or 641-585-1073. Do you have a story idea? Feel free to contact him. Zarren is an award-winning journalist providing coverage to all area schools. Throughout the year, you will hear Zarren calling games as the ‘voice of the Forest City Indians’ on KIOW (107.3), the Indians’ flagship station.