The season opener has arrived for Bishop Garrigan softball, as the Golden Bears look to take a step forward in 2023.
Bishop Garrigan finished last season as the Top of Iowa West runner-up for the second straight year, posting a 15-13 record including 12-4 in league play. The Golden Bears defeated North Iowa 10-0 in the first round of the class 1A playoffs before losing a 7-5 heartbreaker to GTRA in the second round.
Head Coach Paige Purdy says the team is focused on going into the season healthy with many athletes having competed at state track.
The team will once again rely on junior Abbie Capesius to lead the way. Capesius batted a state-leading .667 last season, with an on-base percentage of .738, and a slugging percentage of 1.083. 22 of her 56 hits went for extra bases, as she drove in 24 runs. According to Purdy, Capesius laid out high expectations for the season in their preseason meeting.
Capesius has increasingly had to deal with teams pitching around her, as she walked 18 times compared to only four strikeouts last season. When teams did elect to walk Capesius, she made them pay on the basepaths with 43 steals in 43 attempts, leading the Top of Iowa West by a healthy margin. Purdy says although it can be frustrating for Capesius when teams pitch around her, she can also help win games with her legs.
The Golden Bears will continue to look for improved production from the lineup surrounding Capesius. Sacha Alesch came onto the scene as an eighth grader last year, hitting .329 in 25 games. Current sophomores Molly Peterson and Hanna Merron also established themselves as regulars in the lineup, hitting .322 and .290 respectively. Alesch and Merron were both named to the Top of Iowa West second team for their performance.
Bishop Garrigan once again will have two pitching options to turn to, with senior Darius Goche and junior Ella Schaaf returning. Both pitched in 19 games last season, with Goche making 12 starts to the tune of a 6-8 record with 64 strikeouts and 39 walks in 93.1 innings, posting a 3.30 ERA. Schaaf finished the year 8-6, pitching 81 innings while compiling 74 strikeouts to 62 walks, with a 3.54 ERA. Both Goche and Schaaf improved their ERA substantially from 2021, as Goche had an ERA of 7.44 that season, while Schaaf had a 4.04. Purdy feels the different skill sets of the two pitchers complement each other perfectly.
Goche also had a big season offensively last year to help her earn first team all-conference honors, hitting .386 with a team leading 26 runs driven in.
In order to win the Top of Iowa West, every team has to go through North Union, who steamrolled the competition last season with a 33-5 record, including 16-0 in conference games on their way to a second consecutive class 2A state berth. Purdy feels North Union and Lake Mills will be the biggest competition in the conference this year for the Golden Bears.
Purdy feels the team’s attitude this year will go a long way in determining their fate.
Bishop Garrigan begins the season at home against Top of Iowa West foe Belmond-Klemme on May 22nd, then it’s a road trip to Pocahontas Area on the 23rd, followed by a return to Algona for the crosstown game at AHS on the 24th.