After a year away from the diamond due to the pandemic, the Waunakee prep softball team went through some growing pains in its return this spring.
With only one returning player from 2019, the inexperienced Warriors finished the 2021 campaign with an overall record of 3-21.
“It was a challenging season, but an opportunity for us to gain a lot of experience,” Waunakee coach Tammy Rademacher said.
The Warriors finished 2-12 in the Badger North Conference to finish in eighth place.
“Our young and inexperienced team never gave up and competed to the end and always stayed positive,” Rademacher said.
Beaver Dam and Mount Horeb shared the Badger North title after finishing 12-2, followed by Baraboo (9-5), DeForest (9-5), Portage (6-8), Reedsburg (3-11), Sauk Prairie (3-11) and Waunakee.
The Warriors had a tough start to the season. They opened with consecutive losses to Baraboo, Sauk Prairie, Fort Atkinson, Monroe and DeForest.
Waunakee snapped its six-game losing streak with an 11-7 conference victory over Reedsburg.
The Warriors were unable to build any momentum, as they followed their first win with seven straight losses.
Waunakee’s second win came on May 20, when they thwarted visiting Sauk Prairie 8-1.
The Warriors final win came in the regular-season finale. They won a shootout with Stoughton 13-12.
Waunakee fell 10-0 to Baraboo in a WIAA Division regional opener.
“What I will remember most about the season is the players and how we all overcame many challenges we’ve never faced before,” Rademacher said. “The toughest part of a COVID season was the constant changes and uncertainty.”
The Warriors were led this season by senior second baseman Alyssah Manriquez. She was named second-team all-conference.
Waunakee had sophomores Grace Fueger and Morgan Meyer earn honorable mention All-Badger North Conference.
Manriquez and Meyer were both named captains for the Warriors, while Fueger was awarded the team MVP. Meyer also earned the team’s Passion for the Game award.
Junior Lila Branchaw garnered the Hustle award and the Senior/Junior Academic award, while Lexi Lingard won the Sophomore/Freshmen Academic award. Senior Lindsey Smithback earned the Most Improved Defense award.
Sophomore Katie Valk earned the Most Improved Offense award, while sophomore Rhya Thole won the Warrior Award.
The Warriors had seniors Kenzie Tashick and Allie Lenling earn Academic All-State.
Waunakee is losing a talented group of seniors, including Lenling, Manriquez, Mayah Richmann, Smithback, Tashick and Haley Yates.
“I’m so glad that they got to play this season without interruption,” Rademacher said. “They did a good job leading under challenging circumstances.”
With the return of Fueger and Meyer, the Warriors have a nice foundation to build around next season.
“Our experienced gained this year will serve us well next spring,” Rademacher said. “We are all excited for next year and what the future will bring.”