The Dodger Softball program opens up their season Tuesday night at Harlan Rogers hosting Sioux City-Heelan. For the 1st time in program history the Dodgers carry the #1 preseason ranking into the season. The Dodgers are loaded with returning players from a team that was 35-7 in 2019 and made the 2019 Iowa State Tournament. It would be easy for the coaches and players to feel the extra pressure and to show extra anxiety because of the bulls eye that being #1 puts on a program. However, they seem to be welcoming the #1 ranking and have poise about the fact they are #1 for the 1st time ever to open the year. Coach Andi Adams says her team embraces the expectations.
Dodger Senior 1st Baseman Loghen Schnetzer is one of only two Seniors on this year’s squad. She is one of 6 returning positional starters for the Dodgers this year. Schnetzer set the single season home run record for Dodger Softball with 14 last year while adding 49 RBI’s to lead the team in that category. She joins 6 other Dodger returning players who hit over .300 last year (minimum 40 AB’s). Schnetzer says she doesn’t feel any added pressure in being ranked #1.
Jalen Adams returns after hitting .488 to lead the team last year and having a .550 OBP while reaching base safely in every game last year as a Freshman. Adams is one of 3 Dodgers to hit over .400 last year as Shortstop Tory Bennett hit .439 and Catcher TK Doster hit .473. Bennett also led the team in hits with 65 and stolen bases with 22. Doster drove in 48 runs good for 2nd on last year’s club and had an OBP of over .500 as well. Haley Wills is another member of the “Young Guns” the group of players who were Freshman a year ago and were a major part of the nucleus of last year’s squad. Wills hit .348 and had an OBP of .400 while manning “the hot corner” over at 3rd. Wills also was 10-4 in the circle with a 2.51 ERA and average against of .248 in 16 appearances. While the offensive performance for Jalen Adams was astronomical from a numbers standpoint her pitching numbers were dominant. Adams was 24-3 in 30 appearances surrendering just 43 earned runs all season for an ERA of 1.79 and average against of .180. She also didn’t surrender a run in the post season until the State Tournament loss to West Des Moines Valley. The outfield for the Dodgers is anchored by CF Sophia Klinger, who was heralded by Coach Adams for her defensive work last season. Klinger also hit .283 and her OBP was .377. Chloe Wertz is back to handle Left Field after she hit .330 a year ago and drove in 25 runs. The Dodgers have 2 starters to replace from last year Aubrey Davis at 2nd and Daphne Alstott in RF. Coach Adams has Martyne Lowery slated to play 2nd, she hit .333 in 49 appearances in 2019 and had a .333 OBP. Maia Davis and Malia Lowery will both see time in RF. Katelyn Werning is a Senior who saw time in the circle last year and will be counted on to provide versatility and Senior leadership.
With all that firepower returning from one of Iowa’s top teams in 5A a year ago the expectations are incredibly high. However, the expectations are welcomed by a group of players and coaches who have their own expectations that are probably higher. As someone who has been around sports my entire life, I have found their are two types of pressure in sports. One is the internal pressure of doing your job to the fullest of your ability for your teammates, coaches and yourself. That is internal pressure, the other is the external pressure of feeling like you have to measure up to the outside expectations put on you. In talking to and observing this team I feel like it’s more of the internal type. Will this be the year that the “big gold trophy”stays in Fort Dodge? That is the”million dollar question” and only time will provide the answer. But what is known at this point is that this year’s Dodger Softball squad is poised and they are dealing with the expectations of being #1, one pitch at a time.