Swede girls left wanting more
A look back at the 2009 softball season.
Despite posting the team’s second most successful softball season on record, Gothenburg players were left wanting more out of the 2009 campaign.
After playing in the state tournament three consecutive years, the Swedes wanted another try to continue the growth of the five-year-old softball program.Last year, Gothenburg won its first state tournament game ever. This year’s team had designs on going deeper into the tournament bracket.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Cozad, a Class B softball powerhouse for many years, dropped into Class C this season and competed with Gothenburg for the automatic state tournament berth from District C-6. The Swedes handed the Haymakers one defeat, but couldn’t win the final championship game in the double elimination tournament.
“Except for not making it to state—which is huge, of course—I thought it was a very successful season,” Swede coach Roger Neujahr said.
Gothenburg posted a 22-5 record, second only in program history to the 23-5 mark set last year. The Swedes finished the season ranked sixth by the Omaha World-Herald.
The Omaha paper listed the Swedes’ record at 20-5 since two games to replace contests lost when Chase County dropped softball were added too late to be sanctioned by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
The Swedes suffered defeats at the hands of Cozad (three times), McCook and Grand Island. They ended up beating each of those teams.
“We stubbed our big toe against Grand Island Northwest,” Neujahr said. “If we could have taken that game back, we would have felt so much better because we would have qualified for state (as a wild card team).
The Swedes featured solid pitching primarily behind the arms of senior Bre Messersmith and freshman Amanda Barkmeier.
Messersmith set a new season record for earned run average at 1.20 and the team’s ERA of 1.15 broke the old record by over one-third of a run.
“We gave up very few runs throughout the season,” the coach said. “Anytime you get good pitching and play good defense you’re always going to be in ball games.”
Neujahr said the biggest surprise for him this year was how the team accepted the challenge to continually improve from the start of the season to the end.
“I was so pleased with their effort of accepting the challenge of trying to get better every game and every practice and I thought we did,” he said.
Gothenburg went from one hit in the first game against Cozad to 21 in the three district tournament games against the Haymakers.
The Swede coach said it will be difficult to replace the four seniors—Messersmith, Vanessa Linegar, Ali Abramson and Liz Matthies.
“How can you measure losing your right arm,” he asked. “They have meant so much.”
Even Matthies, who saw little varsity action but accepted the assignment every game to monitor opposing base runners and their steal attempts.
“I’m sure you heard her in every game whether the runner was going or not,” he said.
Junior KaTrina Winter tied a school record with 16 stolen bases.
The Swedes may have broken or tied just three marks, but the 2009 players took the No. 2 spot on all-time charts in 10 categories.
Gothenburg, with 53 doubles, just missed tying the state season record that last year’s team established at 54.
Of all the 12 individual school records, members of the 2009 team own nine of them.
Messersmith was not only the top pitcher, she also led the team in four offensive categories—singles (25), triples (2 along with Roni Putnam), batting average (.408) and on-base percentage (.505).
Linegar topped the charts in hits (33) and doubles (11). Karen Franzen drove in a team-high 23 runs and tied Winter for most sacrifices with five apiece.
Putnam scored a team-leading 30 runs and coaxed 17 walks from opposing pitchers.