The Algoma softball team’s prospects of qualifying for state didn’t look promising at the start of the season.
Its all-state centerfielder was out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a |top pitcher was recovering from a torn labrum and it needed to replace a four-year starter at catcher.
Still, the Wolves found a way to earn their first trip to state since their only other appearance in 2004.
“It would be tough to believe,” Algoma coach Terry Dart said. “Every year you have the kids that graduate, you mix in the injuries we’ve had and that leaves a lot of holes to fill.
“You know you’ll have kids step up, but you never know at what positions or to what degree they’ll perform.”
Heading into Friday’s WIAA Division 3 state semifinal matchup against Poynette (26-1) at Goodman Diamond in Madison, the Wolves (23-4) know they’ll need to put together their best performance of the year in order to unseat the defending state champion.
“I think our team will be ready for it because we’ve been in big situations before,” said Courtney Dart, who has a 1.11 ERA with 121 strikeouts to just nine walks.
Dart, the Packerland Conference player of the year, also leads Algoma with a .588 batting average and joins fellow seniors Amanda Mura (.350) and Kaylee Pieschek (.325) atop the team’s batting order.
The rest of the lineup is made up primarily of players who competed on a traveling squad that finished fifth out of 25 teams at the 2008 Amateur |Softball Association |12-Under Fast Pitch Northern tournament in Springfield, Mo.
One of the players from that squad was Tanika Jorgenson, who as a freshman earned all-conference honors as a pitcher before sustaining a shoulder injury as a sophomore last year.
The injury happened early in the season and forced Dart to carry the pitching load while dealing with a pulled quad.
“Last year we got to a point where Courtney wore down,” Terry Dart said. “This year it hasn’t been an issue because she’s healthy and we have the pitching depth.”
Part of that depth came from the unexpected return of Jorgenson. The junior right-hander went 5-1 after it was initially thought she might not be able to return to play even first base, where she has only three errors and is second on the team with a .387 batting average.
Algoma also saw freshman Jordan Demmin go |3-0 in the circle. However, Demmin’s bigger task was taking over in center field for Taylor Schmidt, who tore an ACL during basketball.
Another key move saw sophomore Meg Ryan move from third base to catcher in order to replace the graduated Lizzy Dier.
“It’s been a number of kids stepping up for us and filling in at different roles,” Terry Dart said. “It’s nice when it all comes together.”
Dart feels playing a tough schedule during the regular season helped his team, which won the Packerland title outright.
Three of the Wolves’ losses came against teams that won regional titles (Bay Port, Southern Door and Three Lakes), while their fourth loss was against an Oconto Falls team that qualified for |D2 state last year.
“I think we’re going to go down there really positive and ready to play in that atmosphere,” Courtney Dart said. “This is just going to be a really fun experience that we’re looking forward to.”