The Nicolet softball team is headed in the right direction, according to first-year coach Brad Kuehl.
"Having built a successful boys volleyball program, I expect to do the same with the softball program," Kuehl said. "We are going to go out and work hard every day and just try and get better. It will not happen overnight, but if the girls believe, we can turn this ship around and head on the right course."
The Knights, who were 4-10 in the North Shore Conference and 6-15 overall last season, return two letterwinners: sophomore catcher/outfielder Emily Gadzichowski, who earned first-team all-conference honors, and senior first basemen Margie Bowen, who was honorable mention.
The Knights' other notable returnees are senior pitcher/infielder Megan Manes, and junior Katelyn Richards, who will be a three-year starter at shortstop. Kuehl will rely on these veterans to make up for the loss of graduated senior Jessica Richards, who pitched for the Knights all four seasons.
Also, Nicolet expects two freshmen to contribute this season. Claire Maxon will catch and play the outfield, and Erin Miller will be playing in the infield and outfield.
"Erin Miller is just a gamer," Kuehl said. "She played varsity tennis as a freshman at Nicolet and hates losing. These are the types of kids we need to bring into the Nicolet softball program."
The Knights' season opened against Milwaukee Riverside on March 30.
Shorewood rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to tie the game, only to see host Whitefish Bay score in the bottom of the inning to win, 7-6, March 27.
"Overall for the first game, I felt we played hard and kept battling," coach Dave Berghaus said. "Defensively, I saw good things out of Celia Carroll at first and Justine Chappa at second. With the solid attitude and drive to succeed I feel we will come back from this and continue to grow and get better."
Helen Juffer had the key hit that drove in the game-tying runs in the top of the seventh.
Caitlin Petersen pitched six solid innings, striking out eight but walking seven.
Petersen also went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple and Kaitlyn Wick went 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Whitefish Bay opened the season by thumping host Milwaukee Riverside, 24-1, in four innings March 26.
Hilary Stein had four hits and two RBI for the Blue Dukes, who scored 14 runs in the third inning after already holding a 10-0 advantage.
Riverside committed eight errors and managed only three hits compared to Bay's 11.
The next day, Bay scored in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Shorewood, 7-6.
- Steve Manske
and Tom "Sky" Skibosh, Staff Writers
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