WAUSAUKEE - Wausaukee Rangers softball coach Sue Stoltenberg has had the luxury of using just two starting pitchers over the past seven seasons.
Entering the eighth year of that run, Stoltenberg will look to fourth-year starting senior pitcher Lauren Edlbeck to guide Wausaukee to a second straight M&O Conference championship.
"It's been great to have Lauren now for four years," Stoltenberg said. "She's just matured and improved every year and has turned into a great pitcher."
Edlbeck's season seemed up in the air during volleyball season after she suffered a blood clot.
The blood clot ended volleyball season and almost all of her basketball season, but her goal from day one was to be ready for softball.
"There were some questions, but I give her a ton of credit, she worked really hard to get back and ready to play," said Stoltenberg. "I think the first time back on the mound will be very emotional for her."
Edlbeck has looked solid early in practice according to Stoltenberg and has added a couple of new pitches to her already extensive repertoire.
"She's shown good control and knows the strike zone very well," Stoltenberg said. "She's a very knowledgeable four-year starter that has seen almost every situation."
Wausaukee brings back four other seniors.
Leading that group is Crysta Clark. Clark, who started at third base the last two years, will move over to shortstop to replace last year's M&O Player of the Year Sara Wickman, who graduated.
"That's a big hole to fill, but Crysta is ready for it," said Stoltenberg. "We'll need her to step up even more."
Other seniors include Bethany Gabriel, Kendra Bakaus and Morgan Zeutzius.
Gabriel, the team's starting catcher last year, moves over to third base and has transitioned well so far.
Zeutzius will start at first base and Bakaus will man one of the corner outfield positions.
Juniors Kaylor DeLaet and Veronica Shaw are also returning starters.
DeLaet is in her third year as the team's starting second baseman and forms a formidable double-play tandem with Clark.
Shaw is back in centerfield and is the leader in the outfield.
Edlbeck has a new battery-mate in freshman Tori Jewett.
Jewett, the sister of former all-conference catchers Kari and Abby Jewett, is ready to step in and contribute right away.
"She's young and inexperienced, but Tori will get better every game," said Stoltenberg. "We feel pretty good with her back there."
Other players who will fight for playing time include juniors Sophia Distad and Jenna Stumbris, sophomores Angel Melton, Amber Dunlap and Rachel Ferrington and freshman Alexis Ranallo.
Distad and Ranallo play the outfield and both Melton and Dunlap can play outfield and first base.
Ferrington and Stumbris provide depth in the infield and can step in when Stoltenberg has DeLaet do some pitching.
"We have nice depth at every position," Stoltenberg said. "Our infield is experienced and very strong. We're young in the outfield, but they will get better every game."
Stoltenberg expects defending M&O co-champion Peshtigo to be a tough battle once again.
Wausaukee also hosts the first round of sectional play this year, something they did three years ago when Edlbeck was a freshman.
"We came up short of our goal to win regionals last year, but now we want it even more with being the host of the first round of sectionals," Stoltenberg said. "I expect this team to compete for another conference title."