After state run, new coach has work cut out after departure of nine players

By Mike Ramczyk

Sports Editor

Epic.

There is really no other way to describe the 2018 Burlington softball season.

Conference champs.

State runner-up.

The best season in 30 years.

And don’t forget about All-Area Co-players of the Year Jaina Westphal and Josie Klein, both of whom are currently playing college softball, Westphal at Division 1 Valparaiso and Klein at Lake Forest College.

The superlatives could go on and on, but it’s time to look at this season – a season of major, major change.

First off, head coach Gary Caliva stepped down and first-time head coach and former UW-Whitewater All-American Val Auseth takes over the squad.

Caliva will stay on as an assistant coach.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the roster, which loses nine players, including Klein, Westphal and a whopping total of seven starters.

Starters Kya Kafar, Jenna Schmalfeldt, Ashley Schmalfeldt, Maddie Berezowitz and Alex Naber are all gone.

Berezowitz and Naber, both seniors, are graduating early.

Berezowitz is doing so to pursue her volleyball scholarship at the University of Kentucky, while Naber already graduated.

So the deck seems to be stacked against the Demons, who saw everything fall into place last year.

Auseth said the team will boast a strong pitching staff, but she realizes it could be a transitional year.

“Losing nine players (seven starters) from last year puts us in a restructuring year,” Auseth said.

Strong middle

Gracie Peterson is back at shortstop, and Emily Zuleger is back behind the plate, solidifying a solid middle infield for the Demons.

Also, power hitter Bridi Allen returns to the lineup.

Allen is the team’s leading returning slugger with a .392 batting average and 29 RBIs. Allen also hit .417 in three state tournament games.

Other returning letter-winners include senior outfielders Ari Carney, Rachel Sanchez, Sophia Gonzalez and Caitlyn Matson.

Carney will play second base, and Gonzalez will also play infield.

Josie Klein, who pitched the majority of the innings last season, will be replaced by younger sister Morgan, a freshman, along with junior Teagan Schmalfeldt and sophomore Alexa Burinda, who will also play infield and outfield.

Auseth says the girls have the ability to contend in the Southern Lakes Conference, where Westosha Central, Wilmot and Elkhorn should be formidable.

“Obviously claiming the conference title again is always a goal,” Auseth said. “We will need this team to fill the roles of some very key players from last year, but with their hard work and excitement for another run at a state title, these girls definitely have it in them.”

Rounding out the varsity roster are Emily Alan, Gwen Kosirog, Natalie Weithaus and Leah Henning.