How Ames softball plans on muscling its way into the state tournament in 2022

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

Ames hopes a lot of extra time spent in the weight room and an added year of experience will pay off in a big way heading into the 2022 softball season.

The Little Cyclones went 20-20 last year and finished fourth in a loaded CIML-Iowa conference with a 9-11 record in head coach Meghan Von Behren's first season. With all but one starter returning, Ames is expecting big things this summer.

“We feel more confident going into this season knowing what to expect,” Von Behren said. “We’ve got everyone back but one player from last year. I think that’s going to give us a big advantage. We’re definitely looking for state.” 

The primary reason Ames hopes to make big jump is all the work the girls put in during the offseason. Last year, Ames had plenty of success at the plate. The Little Cyclones scored 240 runs and hit .325 as a team.

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Seniors Olivia Smalley and Alexa Kopaska hope to lead the Ames softball team to the state tournament in 2022.

But with several months of building strength and hitting the batting cages, the Little Cyclones expect to take their offense to a whole new level in 2022.

“We’ve gotten a lot stronger,” Ames first baseman Olivia Smalley said. “We’ve all been in the weight room a ton this offseason and, with all the hitting we’ve done, I’m really excited to see how we’ll do in games when it comes to scoring runs.” 

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Smalley enters her senior year coming off a 2021 season in which she hit .395 with nine doubles, eight triples, three home runs and 36 RBIs. Six other Little Cyclones hit over .300 a year ago.

Junior shortstop Ellie Lynch hit .392 with 40 steals, 39 runs and 24 RBIs last year. Junior center fielder Ireland Buss hit .357 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs, and senior pitcher Alexa Kopaska hit .354 with two home runs and 17 RBIs.

Freshman outfielder Kaylee Mescher hit .323 with 25 runs and 17 RBIs as an eighth-grader. Sophomore third baseman Katie Riesselman hit .317 with four home runs and 17 RBIs, and junior outfielder Ali Frandsen hit .306 with 13 steals and 24 runs.

Josie Theilen just missed the .300 mark last year as an eighth-grader, hitting .292 with 18 RBIs. Sophomore catcher Kyra Anderson hit eight doubles and drove in 16 runs a year ago.

Freshman Nora Morken could be counted on to help out in the outfield and Mescher could also spare Anderson at catcher during the season. 

Second base is the only position Ames needs to fill on the infield. Looking to replace Rachel Rosacker will be Theilen, junior Mia Vogel and freshman Sydney Smalley.

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Sophomore third baseman Katie Riesselman is one of seven returning players that hit .300 or better for Ames last year.

Ames also expects its pitching staff to receive a big boost. Kopaska was the primary pitcher a year ago and Lynch, Theilen and Sydney Smalley all return with experience.

“As a pitching staff we’ve put in a ton of time. We've been pitching three days a week since the end of the fall sports season,” Kopaska said. “We’ve picked up a lot of miles per hour and new pitches as a group. We feel everything we were doing last year has just been elevated. We feel we have the strongest four-person staff in the state.” 

Kopaska was 12-11 with a 4.85 ERA in 138 2/3 innings a year ago. Theilen went 4-6 with a 6.32 ERA in 58 2/3 innings, Lynch went 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 32 innings and Smalley was 1-0 in 13 2/3 innings.

Ames will face a daunting schedule in its final year as a member of the CIML. Defending Class 5A state champion Fort Dodge and runner-up Ankeny Centennial are both in the conference.

“We play those two teams four times each,” Von Behren said. "I think the three of us are going to be vying for those top spots.”  

Last year, Ames had a short run in the 2021 postseason. The Little Cyclones suffered a tough 11-1 loss to eventual state qualifier Southeast Polk in the 5A regional semifinals.

“At the end of last season, it felt like we hadn’t lived up to our potential,” Kopaska said. “We knew we could’ve beaten Southeast Polk and we had already beaten Johnston. It felt like we came up short and we don’t want to feel that way again.”

The Little Cyclones plan on their postseason lasting a lot longer this time. They have their sights set on Fort Dodge.

“We feel like this will be our season,” Olivia Smalley said. “We kind of deserve it after all of this hard work we put in. It’ll be great.”