SUAMICO - The last two seasons the Bay Port softball team has gone 30-2 in the Fox River Classic Conference and despite the loss of key players to graduation, the Pirates are eyeing a 3-peat.
One reason for optimism is pitcher Taylor Gutzman, who's returning for her third season as a starter, and another reason is all-conference outfielder Hannah Hilbert.
The senior duo will be counted on to lead the Pirates to another conference title and they're ready for the challenge.
"It'd be really awesome," Hilbert said. "It was really cool two years in a row with the girls that graduated last year and we have a really strong team this year. We're young, but we're really strong, so if we could do it again it would be amazing."
The team may have a different makeup, but Gutzman sees no reason why the expectations shouldn't be high.
"I have just as much confidence as I had the other years," she said. "We did lose eight seniors, however, our coaching staff is the same, they push us hard. Everybody in here has been working hard like the years before, so I think we'll be fine."
One reason for that optimism is Gutzman, who was 9-0 and had a 0.78 ERA last season in the FRCC. The last two seasons she shared the circle, but this year it's all hers and she's excited.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Gutzman said. "I love every moment I'm out there. I've been working out almost every day and I pitched four, five times per week. I just got an inside curve now and just trying to improve."
Hilbert knows her teammate and has the utmost confidence that Gutzman can get the job done.
"I've been playing with Taylor since I was seven years old, so I know the way she works," Hilbert said. "I trust her with everything. She's a very good pitcher, so I think our team, we back her up, can do it."
Bay Port has yet to play a game because of the weather so the players have been relegated to working out in the school's fieldhouse. Right now, that's about all that can douse the players' excitement for the season.
"It's really frustrating," Hilbert said. "Being an outfielder, you can only do so much in a gym. We kind of pace ourselves in practice. We bat, we do ground balls, but it's not the same."
"It's frustrating, especially since compared to last year where it was 80 degrees," Gutzman said. We've been working hard in here, making do with what we have."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
Two Oshkosh North players had to be taken off the field in ambulances after colliding in the Division 2 championship game Friday, but their injuries apparently are not as serious as first thought.
Despite all its dominance this season Shiocton entered Thursday's Division 6 state title football game with a healthy respect for Darlington.
Gov. Scott Walker still won't say whether he will sign a bill making it harder to force public schools to drop American Indian nicknames.