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Maquoketa Valley’s 2021 varsity softball team: front from left, Trista Elgin, Kendra Hillers, Carissa Sabers, Taya Tucker and Ella Mensen; second row, Kennedy Rausch, Molly Anderegg, Abbie Sheehy, Avery Krapfl, Payton Beaman and Macy Thompson; back row, assistant coach Ali Scherrman, coach Trevor Arnold, Jada Knipper, Leah Ries, Erin Knipper, Krista Ries and assistant coach Macy Anderegg.

Leading the charge onto the field for the Maquoketa Valley softball team this season is the “Big Three.” Everything starts with Taya Tucker, a four-year starter and first-team all-conference performer last year (.365, .478 OBP, 19 hits, 18 runs, 14 RBIs). The other two seniors are shortstop/pitcher Payton Beaman (.322, 19 hits, 16 runs) and first baseman Krista Ries (.365, 19 hits, 10 RBIs).

The three, along with seven others, who started at least one game last year are back and looking to make improvements on their 2020 7-10 (overall record, 6-9 in Tri-Rivers West).

“We have great experience returning in those three girls who also bring serious power to the plate,” said Trevor Arnold, new head coach. “We also have overall solid team speed. If we can mesh the experience with some talented, but inexperienced young girls, we could be pretty dangerous.”

The Wildcats also expect juniors Carissa Sabers (.281, 16 hits, 13 runs), Leah Ries (.232, 13 hits), Emma Richter (.250, four doubles) and Kendra Hillers (outfielder) as well as sophomores Erin Knipper (.328, 20 hits, 20 RBIs) and Ella Mensen (nine hits) to continue to get better.

Newcomers include sophomores Trista Elgin (2B/SS) and Kaela Clemen (OF/catcher); freshman Cadence Freiburger (3B) and eighth-grader Jada Knipper (P/C/OF).

Maquoketa Valley will also have a “big three” to choose from for pitching. Senior Abbie Sheehy threw of the time last year, 54 1/3 innings for a 4-4 record (4.12 ERA). Macy Thompson, a sophomore, saw action in seven games going 2-3 in 30 innings of work for a 4.20 ERA. Beaman started four games with a record of 1-3 (4.29 ERA) in 31 innings.

“We don’t have a pitcher who is going to strike out 10 batters a game, but we do have pitchers who have the ability to throw multiple pitches to keep opposing hitters off-balance,” said Arnold. “As long as we play defense like we are capable of and don’t give up free bases, we have a formula for success.”