The Milton softball team was hoping to grow on a momentum-building 2019.
Milton went 19-7 last year and finished third in the eight-team Badger South. That was coming off a season where the Red Hawks went 7-9.
There won’t be a season in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic canceling spring sports, but head coach Kristy Roherty is hoping to learn from last season’s successes — as well as failures — going forward.
“Our regular season was awesome,” Roherty said. “I just think we peaked a little bit too soon. We went into the postseason and kind of fell flat.”
Milton earned a No. 2 seed in the WIAA Division 1 tournament, but was defeated by Oregon in a regional game.
The Red Hawks were set to only lose three starters, but key ones at that. Emily Goodger and Laura Onsgard filled in the middle infield spots at shortstop and second base, respectively. Morgan Balch sat behind the pair in center field.
“I was just looking forward to who was going to step up,” Roherty said.
And ready to step into the senior roles were Shay Anderson, Emmily Peterson and Tori Wurslin, all of which played significant roles in last year’s team.
“Shay and Tori were starters as sophomores. Emmily Peterson was a huge part of our team last year,” Roherty said.
“It’s so hard to try to console them. This is it. It’s supposed to be their senior years.”
But the lost season didn’t just impact the seniors.
“They (players) worked really hard. They put their heart and soul and everything into softball,” Roherty said regarding the offseason. “It was hard on them for sure. My seniors opened up and said there were plenty of tears.”
Roherty said she told her non seniors to keep positive and continue working hard.
“That’s all you can say,” Roherty added.
And maybe no player worked harder on the diamond last season for Milton than Erika Reif, who was set to be a junior this season. Reif’s season last year was highlighted with six-straight complete-game wins in the circle toward the tail end of the season.
“She just dominated,” Roherty said. “It’s really exciting. I’ve thought about what the heck she could have done.”
But Roherty felt like more players than just Reif were due for big seasons.
“Every single returner had the ability to really shine,” she said. “They would have.”
Milton will lose the rest of its 2019 starting infield with the loss of Anderson and Wurslin, but the Red Hawks may be in a situation next season when they are one of the few teams with experienced players.
Reif is set to be a senior along with Kelly Hanauska. Reif was a first-team conference selection last season while Hanauska was an honorable mention. Grace Schnell started at catcher last season as a freshman and joined Hanauska as an honorable mention.
“This year is heartbreaking, but they are chomping at the bit to get back playing,” Roherty said. “By this time next year, hopefully we are as strong as ever.”