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Led by FDSH grad Darrow, Mustangs at state for 12th time in 16 years
The Newell-Fonda softball roster is packed with champions.
This cast of Mustangs were part of the state’s last girls state title to be handed out in Iowa at the basketball tournament, which wrapped up right before the COVID-19 global pandemic hit.
Now, second-seeded Newell-Fonda (18-2 overall) is looking to bring the success from the hardwood to the diamond as it makes its 12th trip to Rogers Park in 16 years.
“They know how to handle the state atmosphere,” said head coach Courtney (Vaughn) Darrow, a 2008 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate and former standout player. “They’re all very close, and all play multiple sports. They trust each other. I couldn’t have asked for a better team that works harder.
“They are bound and determined to finish strong.”
Darrow, who enters her second season as head coach, was on Fort Dodge’s state qualifying teams in 2005 and 2006. She knows that the Mustangs have unfinished business from a season ago.
“They fight to finish a goal,” Darrow said. “We don’t take any game for granted. We fell short in the semifinals (in 2019) — now they want to go finish.”
Even with a shortened season, Newell-Fonda has been able to stay focused and keep their ultimate goal.
“They knew from the beginning (it would be a tough season with COVID-19). They were crushed once the track season was canceled. That just gave them more motivation.
“Once they were told they could play, they were ecstatic. They live and breathe sports. We are very blessed to have a season, so they are not going to put anything at risk.”
The Mustangs faced a rugged schedule again, squaring off with many schools outside of 1A — including top-ranked Fort Dodge (5A) and fourth-ranked Humboldt (3A).
“Our schedule just pushes us, win or lose,” Darrow said. “We know to be the best you have to play the best. Mr. (Brian) Wilken (athletic director) got us into the hard tournaments. We played Humboldt and North Union in the final week of the year. We want to do anything to stay on top.
“This group is very level-headed and are always there for each other. If you put in the work, you reap the rewards.”
In a lineup with only one senior and three juniors, it’s an eighth-grader who has shined in the circle for the Mustangs. Kierra Jungers, the daughter of Newell-Fonda basketball coach Dick Jungers, is 10-2 on the season with a 1.41 ERA and 91 strikeouts.
“We just have great athletes who know their roles,” Darrow said. “Ella (Larsen) was our starting pitcher last season, but dealt with some injuries. She was totally fine to let an eighth-grader step in there.
“Kierra is calm and relaxed. You wouldn’t know that she is an eighth-grader. Her teammates back her up on the field. She has been around the game with her dad (Dick Jungers is the former N-F softball coach) since she was a toddler.”
Megan Morenz, the lone senior, is batting .373. Junior Bailey Sievers is hitting a team-best .567. Freshman Mia Walker is at .480..
Junior Maggie Walker (24), freshman Mary Walker (23), Sophomores Macy Sievers (21) and Sophie Stewart (20) lead the Mustangs in RBI.
“Our lineup has been very balanced,” Darrow said. “Megan (Morenz) has been a five-year starter, and our juniors are phenomenal leaders, teaching the younger ones fundamental things.
“Everyone just soaks it in and helps continue the tradition.”
The Mustangs open tournament action on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed in 1A against seventh-seeded Lisbon (20-3).