Mangold very optimistic about upcoming softball season

Returning FHS pitcher Carley Carpenter winds up for a pitch during last year’s state tournament held in Belgrade. Carpenter is one of five seniors on this year’s Golden Eagle squad. Coach Mike Mangold looks for his seniors to provide strong leadership for this year’s team.                                                  

Photo by Doreen Heintz

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

The Fergus High School softball team is just a week away from its initial game of the spring season. Next Friday, March 31, the Golden Eagles will travel to Miles City to play the Cowgirls of Custer County. The junior varsity game is scheduled for 3 p.m., followed by the varsity game at 5 p.m.
Five seniors will take the field for their final time as Golden Eagles. One of those five is veteran pitcher Carley Carpenter. Carpenter had a 16-7 record on the mound for Fergus during last year’s campaign.
“Carley returns a lot of experience as she had a 2.68 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 140 innings pitched last year,” said seven-year veteran Coach Mike Mangold. “There is no doubt we are going to be riding her most of the year as our ace.”
Another senior veteran is Mikayla Comes, who is the returning shortstop for the Golden Eagles. Comes, an all-state player from a year ago, had 32 hits for a .372 batting average. She also hit three home runs.
“Mikayla made a huge improvement at shortstop last year,” said Mangold, “and we expect more of the same this year.”
Another all-state player for Fergus is senior Dani Gapay. Gapay played in the outfield for most of last year’s season, but may get some time at third base this year. Gapay excelled at the bat for the Golden Eagles last year. She finished the season with a .442 batting average and had 34 RBIs and scored 27 runs. Gapay also hit four home runs last season.
The other two seniors on the squad are Ade Halter and Elizabeth Craven.
“She will make an adjustment to the outfield,” said Mangold about Halter. “She will also back up our middle infielders.”
Halter had a .294 batting average last year.
Craven also plays in the outfield. She had a .321 batting average last season, scored 20 runs and stealing 12 bases.
“Elizabeth just flat out makes things happen with her legs,” said Mangold.

Strong junior class will play key roles
Nine juniors will take the field for Mangold this year. Many of these juniors played key roles on the Golden Eagle squad last year and will be even more important this season, especially with the experience they received last season.
Hannah Hayes is an outfielder who usually plays centerfield.
“Her long legs and arms enable her to get to a lot of balls at the centerfield position,” Mangold said.
Hayes had a .212 batting average last year.
Kinsey Irvin is a returning all-conference player for the Eagles. She finished the season with a .395 batting average, including 34 hits, 22 RBIs and 13 doubles. Irvin plays in the infield and is also a pitcher. She concluded last season with a 4.14 ERA.
“Kinsey has always been solid in the circle when we needed her to step up,” Mangold said. “We plan on using her a lot more this year to help her mature. She had a huge start at state versus Frenchtown, and she was able to see her potential.”
Mangold sees junior Haydn Potter taking over the catching duties held by Karlie Southworth the last couple of years. Although Potter has some big shoes to fill, as Southworth has graduated, Potter has gained a lot of experience at the junior varsity level the past two years. Mangold calls Potter “very athletic.” Last season she had a .333 batting average.
Gracia Butcher is the second baseman for the Golden Eagles. She had a .319 average last season.
“Gracia will bat lead off for us,” said Mangold. “She is a good slap hitter who puts pressure on the defense. She will do a good job setting the table for our second, third and fourth hitters.”
First baseman Val Kolstad had a .317 batting average last season.
“She is a very solid backstop at the first-base position and can also provide time behind the plate also,” Mangold said.
Junior Abby Gremaux will also see some catching and infield duties this season.
“Abby came up with a lot of clutch hits (.348 batting average) last year, despite nursing an ankle injury,” said Mangold.
Three other juniors will also make contributions this year. They are Kolby Gobble at first and second base, Kylee Weeden at first base and the outfield, and Alee Sanders in the outfield.
“The three have all seen time, played roles, and they all have the ability to step up and find their niche,” said Mangold.

Sophomore and freshmen players
Isabella Lewis is the lone sophomore on the Fergus team this year. Lewis will see time at second base and in the outfield.
“She would currently get our most improved award from one year to the next,” said Mangold about Lewis.
Mangold welcomes six freshmen to the program this year. They include Macy Mangold, Shelby Long, Jacy Ayers, Libby Jenness, Allison Denton and Laura Schmidt.
“This group will consistently mature as the season goes on,” said Coach Mangold. “They have a lot of games under their belts for freshmen by playing in ASA tournaments during the summer. We will see if it carries over into their high school careers.”

More comments from Mangold
“Finishing 18-8 during the season and placing second place at the Central A Divisional Tournament were significant from last year,” said Mangold. “We also had an impressive showing at state, needing just one more win for a chance to play for a state trophy.
“Throughout the season they became more of a team with each game. They started to understand the strength they have together, rather than as individuals. We want to continue that progress.”
According to Mangold, the major highlight from last year was playing Frenchtown in the quarterfinals at state. In a close contest, Frenchtown came away with the win and went on to win the Class A state championship.
“Our goal is always going to the state tournament,” said Mangold. “A year stronger, wiser and experienced will no doubt give us high hopes again. Our five seniors will be asked to take lead roles.”
Mangold added pitching will tell a lot about the season.
“Our pitchers have a lot of pressure on them,” added Mangold.
Besides Carpenter and Irvin, Macy Mangold will also get a lot of pitching work.
“It will be mainly on the junior varsity side of things, or as a change of pace if we need it on the varsity side,” said Coach Mangold. “Currently, I have no skepticism about putting any of them in the circle for a varsity game.”
Mangold also sees having 14 upperclassman as providing some good depth for the team.
“The goal is to find their strengths and weaknesses,” said Mangold. “For those who have seen our games the last few seasons, they know I like to make a lot of substitutions to utilize our strengths, and I don’t see this year being any different. The first half of the season is going to be important to judge everyone’s fit and roles for a successful season.”
Mangold sees Belgrade as being at the top of the Central A again this year.
“They have a girl who could be the fastest pitcher in the state,” he said. “If you have that, you may not need a lot for the rest of the game, but they will be strong in all parts of their game. Livingston, Havre and us all lost some good players, but I think we bring back more of a nucleus. I wish I had a crystal ball, but that’s why we play the season.”
Mangold is excited to see what story is going to make this team special.
“New stories, new girls being asked to fill new roles, and new attitudes,” Mangold concluded about the upcoming season.
Assisting Mangold this seaon is former Fergus softball player Kirsten Miller.

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