Head Coach: Matt Ellenbecker (6th season)
Assistant Coaches: Emily Bonack (3rd season); Ben Natzke (5th season); Cliff Prahl (3rd season); Mackenzie Osness (1st season); Chase DeCleene (1st season)
2016 Record: 18-10 Overall, 8-4 WVC (3rd)
2016 Post Season: Defeated Northland Pines 15-0 (4 innings); Defeated Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau (GET)-2-0; Defeated Mosinee (11-6); Defeated La Crosse Logan (4-2); Lost Northwestern/South Shore (3-4)
Returning All-Conference: Chelsey LaMonica (1st Team/First Base); Taylor Krueger (2nd Team/Pitcher): Kelsie Belfiori (2nd Team/Center Field); Maddix Bonnell (Honorable Mention/Shortstop); Calli Oberg (Honorable Mention/Centerfield)
Key Returners: Calle Johnson (Sr./Outfield); Stephanie Schroder (IF/OF); Lindsey Casper (Jr./IF); Madi Weix (Jr./OF); Molly Weix (Jr./IF)
Coach Ellenbecker Quotable:
“Last season was quite a success. We had graduated six seniors from a very strong team the year before, and we came into 2016 looking pretty young. Our schedule was very challenging, and the season had some ups and downs, but we finished strong with a nice run in the playoffs.
“Highlight games for the season probably include an early season victory over DC Everest, the regional championship game against Mosinee, and the sectional semi-final victory over #1 ranked defending state champion La Crosse Logan. We had several key games throughout the season against top opponents that didn’t go our way, but the level of pitching and the quality of those opponents were extremely beneficial to us.
“The sectional final game right here in Merrill was probably our high point and low point of the year. I think we surprised many people simply getting to that game, and to be three outs away from winning… it was an exhilarating game and a tough loss to experience.
“We return a pretty experienced group this season. We have set up another schedule that is going to be challenging and prepare us for tough games later on. I think that we are going to be a very good defensive team and we have the potential to be very strong at the plate. We had eight full or part time starters returning from last year’s team.
“Unfortunately we lost our three-year starting first baseman, Chelsey LaMonica, to a knee injury late in the basketball season. She will still be a part of any success we have this year, as she is a returning captain, but multiple players have been working to replace her production on the field. That won’t be easy, but players are working hard to step up.
“The Wisconsin Valley Conference is going to be as tough as it has been in years. SPASH returns a strong contingent of last year’s state championship team. DC Everest returns Miranda Gajewski and a solid group of players around her. I’m sure their goal is to win a conference title this year.
“I think Marshfield, with their elite pitcher/catcher duo will be very tough as well. Wausau West gave us two very tough games last year, and they will return a lot of experienced players. Our job is to step up and compete with every team in the league. That won’t be easy, but it’s a goal of ours.
“We have an athletic and skilled team this year.” Ellenbecker adds. “It’s a group that will play extremely hard and play aggressive ball. Our players, at all levels, have worked hard for each other, and will be great representatives of MHS and the Merrill community. Come on down to the MARC and check out Bluejays softball.”