Friendship comes first for Ankeny softball teammates Shayla Starkenburg and Aly Cappaert, even in a state where the Hawkeye-Cyclone rivalry can create a divide.
The seniors, who first became teammates as 9-year-olds, are savoring their last few weeks together for the No. 1-ranked Hawkettes before they attend opposing schools.
Starkenburg, a second-team all-state pitcher, will attend Iowa. Cappaert, a first-team all-state first baseman, will play at Iowa State.
They signed letters of intent sitting side-by-side — probably one of the few times a future Cyclone and a future Hawkeye have done that.
“I don’t think we’ll have the regular Iowa State-Iowa rivalry,” Starkenburg said. “We’ll always be friends.”
They’re finishing their high school careers together this month. Starkenburg had a 26-0 pitching record and an ERA of 0.67 entering Saturday’s Class 5-A regional semifinal against Mason City. Cappaert had 11 home runs with 44 RBIs and a .558 batting average.
Next year, it’s black and old gold — and cardinal and gold.
“It’s going to be weird seeing her in a different uniform,” Cappaert said. “We’ve always been on the same side.”
They began playing together for the Ankeny Thunder. Hearing AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” still gives them a memory of the past.
So does the Ankeny softball diamond, the site of 3-hour practices and a legacy of an Iowa-best dozen state titles, including fall crowns. The school will move to a new field next season.
“All the hard work in practice, all the games we won together and even the games we lost together,” Starkenburg said, collecting her memories.
The girls recall spraying teammates with squirt guns at practice and constructing a paper airplane hidden outside the fence.
Cappaert was known as a motivating player with her attitude and her bat.
“She knows how to pick people up,” Starkenburg said. “She’s one of the best hitters in the state, if not the best.”
Starkenburg mowed down hitters and threw hard to first base, too. She drilled Cappaert in the stomach and on the shin with throws.
“That’s Shayla at her scariest, when she’s chucking the ball right at your face,” Cappaert said.
That’s a sign of Starkenburg’s intense competitive fire.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say she’s out there to kill someone, but she plays to win,” Cappaert said.
The girls helped Ankeny finish second in last year’s Class 4-A tourney.
Starkenburg will be a Hawkeye, studying athletic training. Cappaert will be a Cyclone and study journalism. They look forward to their first meeting as opponents with a smile.
“I can’t wait to pitch against her and have fun with that,” Starkenburg said.
Abby Sonner earned fame while playing on state championship teams in softball and volleyball at Johnston. This summer, she returned to her former school as a coach.
Sonner, who recently completed her junior season in softball at Minnesota State at Mankato, served as an assistant coach this summer for the Dragons.
A strong-armed shortstop, she helped Johnston win a 2009 Class 4-A state championship in softball.
Sonner topped her senior year by earning Des Moines Register female high school athlete of the year honors.
She also played on Johnston volleyball teams that finished first and second in her final two seasons.
At Minnesota State, she has started since midway through her freshman season. Sonner batted .286 with five homers this past year.
Sonner is studying elementary education.
GOOD SPORTS: Des Moines Roosevelt’s Sarah Ramundt was injured Tuesday when she was struck by a pitch thrown by East all-stater Riley Fisher. Ramundt had a broken arm. Fisher visited her in the Roosevelt dugout, offering an apology that Ramundt accepted. The two players will attend Iowa State.
FOOTBALL CAMP: The Iowa National Guard and the NFL will co-host a high school player development event at Camp Dodge in Johnston on July 20-21. High school coaches and members of the Iowa Barnstormers will lead workshops. Registration is limited to the first 150 applicants. Contact Greg Schoon at (515) 240-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SENIOR SPECIAL: Veteran pitcher Demi Plathe of West Des Moines Dowling Catholic threw a no-hitter vs. Southeast Polk Tuesday. It was her first no-hitter this season.