WAYNE – After securing back-to-back state titles in Class C (2018) and Class B (2019), the Wayne High softball team will look to compete for another Class B title this fall.
The Blue Devils are coming off arguably one of the best last outings in program history after trailing by a run in the Class B State Championship game against Beatrice last year. WHS then scored three runs and shutout the Lady Orange in the final inning to win 5-3 capping off a 35-4 season.
Head coach Rob Sweetland enters his 19th season leading Wayne High softball. Over a handful of the team will return quite a bit of experience but be without current South Dakota State Jackrabbit Tori Kniesche in the circle and at the plate.
“I think this summer they kind of saw that and understand they’re probably going to be in some really close games,” said Sweetland. “Need to get a little better offensively. There’s some experience there but there’s still a lot of growth that needs to be made.”
Wayne High will return their top performer at the plate being Kendall Dorey who recorded 58 hits broken down to 29 singles, 16 doubles, three triples and 10 homeruns. Dorey also drove in 34 runs and scored 58 times. She’ll also be the starting pitching who recorded 25 and two-thirds innings of work last season finishing with a 5-1 record, one save, allowing 20 runs (11 earned) off 23 hits while walking 10 batters and striking out 45.
During the Class C Summer State Softball Championship run for the Dirt Devil 16/18s, Dorey was second on the team in hits with 20 (18 singles/two doubles), three RBI and six runs scored following an injury during the basketball season. She was able to work 45 and a third innings in the circle going 7-1 allowing 30 runs (16 earned) off 24 hits while walking 24 batters and striking out 82.
The Blue Devils will have 16 girls on the team this fall but will be without Aliah Schulz who will be opting for surgery and out for the season with a torn labrum in her hip. Assisting Sweetland will be Kevin Hill, Kiley Koch and volunteer Lexi Lenihan.
As each sport has similar protocols pertaining to COVID-19, coach Sweetland explained more on what Wayne High is doing.
“We try to just use our own equipment and try to maintain distance in lines and when we’re talking to them as a team,” Sweetland explained. “Cleaning stuff off and we take temperatures before practice.”
Wayne High softball will once again be one of the smallest teams in Class B as they’re classified with a total girls enrollment of 108 as the 40th team in their class. The largest total girls enrollment team for Class B is Hastings with 401 while the top Class C team for total girls enrollment is Gothenburg with 106.
Over the summer, the team lifted and conditioned four days a week in the morning before hitting two of those days. Coach Sweetland added they attended the Central Community College Softball Camp led by former Blue Devil Caitlin (Fehringer) Simon.
“She had a team camp,” Sweetland added. “We went down there and played about four games in one day. It was kind of a situational camp. So, we got to look at a lot of different situations offensively and definitely.”
The Blue Devils were scheduled to compete in a Jamboree at Norfolk Thursday but it has since been canceled. The team will be hosting their own scrimmage this evening before their season opener hosting Blair next Thursday, August 20 at 6:30 p.m. Wayne will also host Arlington, Centura/Central Valley, Highway 91, Ord, Pierce, Ponca and Twin River next weekend.
Coach Sweetland mentioned the team will be tested early in the season.
“Then we turn around a couple days later and you get your first three-day tournament of the year,” Sweetland mentioned. “Which is always a little bit different too because you got to be focused for pretty much a 6-7-hour span. We’ll get to see where we’re at right away.”
Wayne High will close out the month hosting O’Neill on Tuesday, August 25 before playing in the Highway 91 Triangular with Bishop Neumann, visit South Sioux City and travel to Columbus to face the Lakeview in early September.