By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– The West High Women of Troy opened the 2014 softball season with a pair of wins in a varsity doubleheader against Dubuque Hempstead Tuesday, May 27, at home. West, under new coach Justin Lutjen, took the first game 3-2 and the nightcap 5-1.
Jessie Harder drove Madi Miller home with a single in the bottom of the first inning to give West a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, eighth-grader Autumn Barthelman RBI’d Miller on a single with an extra base, and then scored as Adara Opiola turned a double into a visit to third thanks to a Dubuque error.
The Mustangs scored in the top of the third, went three-up and three-down in the fourth and fifth innings and scored again in the sixth.
Harder pitched all seven innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits and walking two while striking out eight. At bat, she went 3-3 with an RBI. Miller scored two runs and swiped two bases while Barthelman went 1-2, walked once and scored one run.
Volleyball standout Laynie Whitehead worked all seven innings in the circle for the nightcap, marking her return to West High softball. Whitehead gave up one unearned run on two hits, struck out seven and walked two. Opiola and Taylor Libby both put solo homers into the book in the sixth and second innings respectively.
Coach Lutjen said, “the bats finally came to life in the sixth as we scored four runs.” Opiola, Skylar Ryan and Taleah Smith had a pair of hits each in the effort.
Lutjen came to West High after four years at Mid-Prairie, where he posted a 109-60 record. His wife Kelsey is an assistant coach along with Morgan Yoder and Clear Creek Amana alumnus Grace Chabal.
Last season, the Women of Troy suffered through a 22-20 campaign overall, and 16-10 conference record.
Five starters return: Harder (soph) with a 12-11 record pitching and 2.58 ERA, Opiola (soph) who covers third base and had a .429 batting average. Opiola knocked out seven homers and had 29 RBIs last year. Grace Tafolla (junior) is back at shortstop and was a third team All-State honoree last year with a .393 average while Miller (junior) works second base and posted a .380 average, nailed six homers and drove in 26 runs. Libby (soph) alternates between right field and catcher and had four homers last year with a .353 average and 45 RBIs.
Also back are seniors Andrea Borman (first base) and Michaela Just (outfielder).
Whitehead, Ryan, Smith and Barthelman join Lutjen as newcomers to the squad. Whitehead covers first base and pitches while Ryan, Smith and Barthelman are outfielders. “Laynie will provide a great one-two punch in the circle,” the coach said.
“This is a great group of kids that work extremely hard,” Lutjen said of his new team. “They are putting in the time and effort to learn a new system and are picking things up much quicker than I anticipated. We’re a confident team with our eyes set on Fort Dodge (state softball tournament).”