With a young roster that included five seniors, 10 juniors and five sophomores, the DeForest prep softball team went through some growing pains this spring. They Norskies showed flashes of greatness, but also struggled at times.
“It was an up-and-down season,” Norski coach Harold Olson said. “We split games with every conference team except Waunakee. That is a strong showing with such a young team.”
DeForest finished the season 13-12 overall. The Norskies placed fifth in the Badger North Conference with a 6-8 record.
Waunakee won the Badger North title with an 11-2 mark, followed by Reedsburg (10-4), Mount Horeb (8-5), Beaver Dam (7-7), DeForest, Portage (6-8), Sauk Prairie (4-10) and Baraboo (3-11).
The Norskies’ youth was evident early in the season when they jumped out to a 3-5 start.
DeForest turned things around midway through the season, sparked by a 5-2 stretch.
After dropping their final two games of the regular season, the Norskies kicked off the WIAA postseason with a 5-2 victory over conference rival Beaver Dam.
“One of the things I will remember most about the season is Jake Purcell’s grand slam in our regional game against Beaver Dam,” Olson said. “That proved to be the game-winning hit and propelled us on to face Sun Prairie in the regional final. The ear-to-ear smile on Jake’s face as he rounded third base is a moment I will always remember.”
In the regional final, DeForest dropped a 3-1 heartbreaker to eventual state runner-up Sun Prairie.
“One of the biggest highlights of the season was taking on Sun Prairie in a regional final game at their place and giving them a run for their money,” Olson said. “We lost a close game, but showcased our best effort of the season.”
The Norskies finished the season with an outstanding team batting average of .310, while the pitching staff had a solid 2.85 earned run average.
“Our Achilles was our fielding,” Olson said. “We had a high number of miscues that cost us games, but you have that with a great deal of younger players.”
The Norskies had seven players bat over .300, including Ayden Austin (.429), Justin Hausser (.412), Jack Olver (.386), Cal Olson (.384), Purcell (.375), Dylan Haas (.333) and Mason Kirchberg (.312).
Hausser led DeForest with 22 RBIs, while Olver and Olson finished with 21 and 20, respectively. Hausser also paced the Norskies with 22 runs, while Olver and Kirchberg scored 20 times each.
Olson was DeForest’s top pitcher with a 5-3 record and 1.570 ERA.
Despite small numbers, the Norskies’ senior class of Purcell, Kirchberg, Luke Beyer, Carson Patzner and Jared Stuttgen provided great leadership.
“The seniors provided tremendous leadership for our club that our junior and sophomore classes can build upon next spring,” Olson said. “They were a great bunch of kids who came to work hard every practice and played with great sportsmanship and class on the ball diamond. We will miss that group.”
With 15 players returning next season, the future looks very bright for the Norskies.
“Overall, our team will come in with more experience and loftier goals,” Olson said. “Our team batting and pitching should be as solid, if not better, than this season. Team defense will definitely need to improve to make a challenge for the top spot in conference. A team goal will definitely get back to sectional play and have a shot at making the state tournament. With that said, the WIAA is planning on expanding Division 1 to 112 teams from the current 96 team format. That will make the playoff season a little tougher to navigate.”