EDEN VALLEY – The entire Eden Valley-Watkins softball team’s offense is on fire.
The Eagles, who are off to a 6-0 start, are hitting .404 as a team and have scored 80 runs.
“I’ve definitely been pleasantly surprised by that,” EV-W head coach Dave Dziengel said. “We’ve only given up 22 runs. We’re throwing strikes and putting the ball in play.”
Nobody is hotter at the plate to start the year for EV-W than sophomore second baseman Breanna Stang. Stang is hitting .545 with 16 RBI and 10 runs scored.
For her impressive start to the season, Stang has been named the Times’ Prep Athlete of the Week.
Stang says she isn’t a power hitter. She tries to keep things simple when she steps to the plate.
“I’m just trying to go up there and get a single. I’m never expecting to hit a home run,” she said. “I just try and put the ball in play and hit line drives up the middle.”
As for her team’s offense, Stang admits that scoring 80 runs in six games is something she didn’t expect from the Eagles to begin the year.
“I knew we could be pretty good this year, but scoring this many runs is unexpected,” she said. “We only lost one senior from last year and returned eight starters. That experience is helping us a lot.”
Dziengel knew Stang would be solid this season, but even he’s been somewhat taken aback by the start his No. 2 hitter is off to.
“I’m surprised because she’s only a sophomore,” Dziengel said. “She’s been stepping up big with people on base. She always makes contact. It’s unusual to have that many RBI from the No. 2 spot. She’s sort of taking away RBI from her sister in the three spot.”
Breanna and her sister, Brook, form the Eagles’ double-play combo. Brook is a senior shortstop who is hitting .313 with eight runs scored.
Brook is a proud big sister when talking about Breanna.
“She’s been playing really well, making contact and making good plays in the field,” Brook said. “We try and help each other a lot. If one of us is having a bad game, we’ll always try and pick each other up.
“We’ve been playing together so long that we know what each other is going to do before it happens.”
The Stangs grew up playing catch together in their yard and started playing softball competitively when they were in fourth grade.
It’s that kind of dedication that has helped turn Eden Valley-Watkins into a softball stalwart. The Eagles made it to the Class A state tournament two seasons ago.
The Stangs and Dziengel are hoping they can make it back there again this season.
“We’re in a tough conference with Maple Lake and Rockford. We’re a Class A school, but we play a Class 2A schedule,” Dziengel said. “We have a tough section with Kimball and Browerville. We fell short of state last year. We have some girls who have been there before, like Brook. It would be fun to get back to Mankato.”
Breanna was just an eighth-grader when the Eagles played at state. She made it into games as a courtesy runner. She wants to make it back there to experience state as a regular contributor.
“If we keep playing like this, I think we can make state,” Breanna said. “I learned how much work it takes to get to state when I was in eighth grade. Just being in that environment was so much different and exciting.”
No matter what happens the next two seasons, Breanna knows who her biggest fan will be. Brook will attend Southwest Minnesota State this fall, but will be watching her sister’s prep sports career with great interest.
“I’ve seen her grow up as a player. We used to hit ground balls and play catch with each other all the time,” Brook said. “I think she can get even better. She just needs to keep playing like she has been.”
Follow Andy Rennecke on Twitter @AndyRennecke. Contact him at 255-8735.