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St. Joseph-Ogden softball players know the expectations.
The program has an area-best eight state tournament appearances.
The players want to make it nine this season.
Third baseman Andrea Coursey said she feels like this year could be the year the Spartans bring home another state title.
The program already owns one, having won a Class A state championship in 2006.
“You always have that one game or practice where you think if we play like this no one can beat us,” she said.
Last year, the Spartans fell to Dupo, 10-5 in a Class 2A Athens Super-Sectional game.
That result is not something the team wants to repeat this year.
Outfielder Logan Frerichs said she felt more pressure to succeed last season. This season, the returning starter says everyone knows what must be done for the team to be successful, especially in the postseason.
“I just feel like everyone knows their roles this year,” she said.
Last season, the Spartans lost top pitcher Tori Witruk with a season-ending knee injury in April. The Spartans also lost its leading base-stealer, Kenzie Pence, to a leg injury just before the 2A sectional title game
Witruk has been a prolific pitcher for the Spartans.
During her sophomore year she compiled a 32-4 record. The Parkland College signee enters her final season with the seventh-most wins in program history and sports a 49-11 career record to go along with 335 career strikeouts.
Witruk said she is looking forward to the upcoming season and feels like the team has the players in place to go deep into the post season.
Head coach Randy Wolken, back for his 38th season and sporting a 977-233 record in charge of the Spartans, agreed.
“I talk to them about the pressure and expectations and how everybody is going to give them their best shot,” Wolken said. “Going into the postseason I hope we are tested, and I hope the pressure is off by postseason.”
Coursey is returning to the Spartans after a huge 2016 season. She had the second highest batting average on the team last year with .548 mark and during her first three seasons at SJO, has a career batting average of .504
The senior, who signed with Illinois State last November, had 72 RBI last year and 73 the year before that.
“I don’t feel the pressure yet but I am sure we will once the games actually start,” Coursey said.
Pence, who committed to Illinois State last fall, is also returning to the Spartans. Pence had .545 average last year, just behind Emmy Graver, another ISU commit who had a .556 average in 2016. Pence had 60 hits last season and 70 stolen bases, while Graver had 65 hits last season, 14 doubles and scored 51 runs. Graver will play second base this season.
New to the Spartans this year is freshman Bailey Dowling. Dowling will play shortstop for the Spartans and has already committed to play softball at Alabama.
Wolken said the expectations placed on the team are real, part of it is external with the Spartans ranked second in the state in 2A behind Carterville, but part of it is internal and comes from the girls themselves.
“They have high expectations,” Wolken said. “When they practice, it is intense and they work hard.”
Frerichs, who will play college softball at St. Ambrose next spring, said she feels the expectations are no different this year than previous years because the girls always want to end their season at the state tournament in East Peoria.
“I think we just want to be the best,” Frerichs said.