In January of 2022, the South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors decided that South Dakota would hold its first-ever softball season in the spring of 2023.
While the weather doesn’t exactly scream spring, the inaugural season of high school softball is upon us.
Despite the less than ideal weather conditions, the team from Lennox High School has already begun preparing for the upcoming season.
Leading the Orioles on the field this year will be head coach Shawn Grengs who will be assisted by Katie Klemme.
Grengs shared the concern that everyone looking outside is thinking — the weather.
“My biggest area of concern is that amount of snow on the ground. Getting out of the intermediate gym and into the outdoor elements is going to take some time,” said Grengs. “Then thinking about getting 10 regular season games in before the state tournament is going to be challenging…clearly this is out of our control.”
Being forced inside isn’t the only obstacle Grengs feels the team will face. He noted experience will also be an area of concern.
“Registration isn’t complete yet but we currently appear to be young which could be the same for the other schools,” said Grengs. “This is why focus during practices whether indoors or outdoors will be critical.”
The team roster currently includes a diverse mix of players ranging from seventh graders to seniors.
“Alicen Oltmanns and Makinleigh Wallenstein are both seniors with tons of experience playing competitive softball,” said Grengs. “Both I believe have been playing since a very young age.”
Grengs will look to the two for leadership on the team.
“Coming together as a team quickly is a high priority with our diverse age groups on the team,” said Grengs.
“This is new to every school’s athletic director, coaches, and athletes. Learning from pain points and successes will ensure a productive season and program going forward.”
Grengs is focused on building a winning culture and believes there are three ways to accomplish this: team work, sportsmanship, and focusing on the task at hand.
“Wins and loses are just a by product of these three initiatives,” said Grengs. “This all starts with how we prepare, communicate, and help one another in practices.”
Practices got underway for the team on Monday of this week.
With everything being brand new, Grengs doesn’t know exactly what to expect this season but does feel there will be tough competition to be dealt with.
“Despite this being our inaugural year three teams stick out immediately,” said Grengs when asked about competition. “From the community perspective the default answer is always Tea and Canton. For me personally I’ve had the opportunity to train about 20 athletes and coaches from Beresford,” he added. “I’m expecting to see many familiar faces and having that professional connection will provide more intrigue for me.”
Grengs knows that pitching and catching is always key in fast pitch softball and he feels the Orioles have three experienced pitchers on the team, including a lefty, positioning them to be competitive with the best of them.
There are also several younger athletes who have pitched in the past and have shown potential early on.
“Both Coach Klemme and I are passionate and knowledgeable with the pitching aspect so I’m very hopeful our pitching room is a strength,” Grengs added.
Grengs hopes strong pitching can help the team successfully achieve their goals of working together as a team, showing excellent sportsmanship during practices and games and focusing on the task at hand. If everything falls into place, Grengs believes the team will find themselves playing into June at the State Tournament.
As of March 14, the LHS softball team roster consisted of seventh graders: Alexandra Denning, Emma Seykora, Jocelyn Thoms, Jayla Jilderda, Willow Booker; eighth graders: Brooklyn Buehner, Reba Schroeder; ninth graders: Olivia Elledge, Tori Halverson, Maggie Jacobson, Macy Wallenstein, Abbie Wildeboer, Aleeah Oltmanns, Carlee Gabriel, Chambree Wessnor; sophomore Madison Buehner; junior Danica VanNingen and seniors Makinleigh Wallenstein and Alicen Oltmanns. Grengs is expecting a few more athletes to join to team before the official start of the season.
The team’s first game is scheduled for Friday, March 31 at Tri-Valley, weather permitting. The team’s first home match-up is set for Apr. 4.