By Mike Deak
Ink Free News
WARSAW – Series two of the spring sports ‘season previews’ is softball.
The IFN coverage area has some proud traditional programs with histories of success as well as some up-and-coming programs that are ready to get their names into the softball discussions as well. In recent years, Wawasee and Triton have made runs in the state tournament, both having been in the semi-state in the past 10 years, and Warsaw owns a state title, a proud sign posted on the city’s edge representing its 1991 glory.
None of the five teams IFN covers were able to claim a sectional championship a year ago. Wawasee was the only team to finish above .500, winning 14 games, 10 of those were in the Northern Lakes Conference where it finished third in the standings. The Lady Warriors were hit hard by graduation and were facing a short roster, but had pieces in place to continue to contend.
Warsaw and NorthWood both finished in the bottom half of the NLC, but had 18 total wins between them. Both teams had a host of young players that had a lot of playing time among them. NorthWood was set to make a jump, with a pair of seniors in Madison Miller and Gracie Clark ready to take the ball in the circle and lead the team. Grace Anglemyer gave NorthWood a multi-year anchor behind the plate. Izzy Dittmar was ready to headline the Tigers. The four-year starter had moved around the infield her first three years, but was ready to hold down the team behind the plate as a senior. The two-year All-NLC performer was captaining a team that also had Lindsey Bradley, Avery Sleeth and Madison Lane coming back to help the Tigers.
Tippecanoe Valley was often one pitch away last year despite just five wins to show for its season. The Vikings were looking to the senior leadership of the likes of Amy Baca, Kirstyn Yoder and Ally Betten. Triton scuffled through a three-win season in 2019, but the guidance of seniors Skyla Wilson and Alyxa Viers and a bevy of younger players now a year older had Triton aimed upward.
Skyla Wilson, Triton: “I’m staying sharp by always trying to stay positive and to look on the bright side of everything. I also play catch and keep my arm working. I believe that I will come out of this experience stronger and more appreciative of what I got even if it’s not what I wanted. I played my heart out on the field and will always love this sport. I was heart broken when I saw the news. To hear that I would have no senior season hurt. I’ve played softball for 14 years, I’ve put a lot of work toward this sport. But I’m also sad for my whole team because they don’t get to play either and they have worked hard, too.”
Amy Baca, Tippecanoe Valley: “I’ve been staying ‘sharp’ by keeping active, whether it’s throwing a ball outside or doing daily workouts. Not only have I been staying sharp physically, but mentally. I had so many things to look forward to so I try and keep a determined mindset to get through at least a short season. Since it is my last year playing softball, It does feel like I’m missing out on the experience of playing with a new team again, making memories, and watching us all grow in passion and ability. I have given full effort to this sport for the past four years in high school, so at least I come out of this without having any regrets and given everything I’ve got so far this season.”
Izzy Dittmar, Warsaw: “I am trying not to think that way. I know the ultimate decision is not mine. Missing senior night is the hardest thing but I am prepared for the worst. I really love my teammates and I know we were looking forward to this season more than anything. Don’t take anything for granted and play every single pitch as it might be your last. I’ve heard this hundreds of times from coaches and my parents. It’s absolutely the truth.”
Madison Miller, NorthWood: “Softball means a lot to me. I’ve played for a very long time and was looking forward to an incredible senior season. For years I have looked forward to the moment when my teammates and my pictures were on the fence representing the senior class. Now I just strive for the opportunity to step foot on the field again with them by my side. As of right now I don’t anticipate to be playing college softball and to have this long awaited senior season cut short is disheartening. This was our year as a program, our team chemistry was forming, and our love for the game was not lacking.”