Entering the 2019 campaign, the players on the Malcolm softball team knew they had some big shoes to fill. The shoes in the middle of the pitching circle are some of the biggest.
After four years in which Laura Reiling handled the bulk of the pitching duties for the Clippers, the team is counting on some new arms this year.
Hailey Wessel has staked her claim on the title of ace. The senior closed out the opening week of the season with a 3-0 record while also being part of a combined no-hitter.
The Clippers faced West Point-Beemer in the Aug. 24 championship game of the North Bend Central Invite. Wessel mowed down the the Cadets’ lineup by striking out seven in three innings. Emma Brown came on in the fourth to close out the no-hitter as the Clippers claimed the title in a 10-0 run-rule shortened game.
“Hailey knew coming into the season that we’d be counting on her,” Malcolm co-head coach Andrew Edwards said. “She’s been good when we’ve called on her in the past. Now, we need her to be consistently good.”
The win was Wessel’s third in a three-day span as she came on in relief in a semifinal game against North Bend that turned into a nail biter. Wessel entered the game with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning and struck out Ashley Humlicek to end the inning. Wessel got herself out of a jam in the fifth inning to hang on for a 5-4 win in a game that ended due to time limit.
“That was a good early season test for Hailey,” Edwards said. “We didn’t anticipate that game being such a dogfight but it was good to see how Hailey and the rest of our team would respond to some adversity.”
Wessel was in the circle for the Aug. 22 season opener as No. 9 Malcolm welcomed fourth-ranked Auburn. With the exception of a four-run fifth inning, the senior hurler was mostly untouchable. Wessel allowed four hits while striking out seven as the Clippers opened the season with a 6-4 win over the Bulldogs.
“Our girls had plenty of motivation in that one,” Edwards said. “They were well aware that Auburn was up pretty high in the rankings.
“After losing to them twice last year, we were hungry for a shot at them.”
The win over the defending conference champs was a total team effort as eight of the nine Clippers in the batting lineup recorded at least one hit. Jaiden Helms was one of three players with a pair of hits. The sophomore speedster went 2-for-3 with one run batted in and two stolen bases.
A pair of seniors are having an impact at the plate. Taylor Glause closed the opening week batting .500 with a double and a home run. Jordyn Virus had a pair of doubles and a triple while matching Glause’s batting average.
“This is a different team than we’ve had the past few years,” Edwards said. “We’re going to get production up-and-down the lineup, from veterans and from first-year varsity players.”
The Clippers (3-0) play three games this week. They are scheduled to play in the Lincoln Public Schools Classic on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Doris Bair Park. Malcolm will open with Norris (1-1) before seeing how they compare against a pair of Class A foes. Malcolm will face Norfolk (0-2) and Grand Island (1-1).
“Some years, we take our lumps at this tournament,” Edwards said. “But you don’t get better by winning blowouts against lower level competition. Playing Class A and B teams should make us stronger when October rolls around.”
The Aug. 26 game at Wilber-Clatonia was cancelled because of rain.