Softball: Wadena-Deer Creek enters 2023 season with a different captain of the ship

With a new head coach, the Wolverines aim to make big strides in the upcoming season.

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The Wadena-Deer Creek 2023 softball team photo
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA – The Wadena-Deer Creek softball team hasn’t made a state tournament appearance since 1993 and has struggled to secure a 10-win season in recent history. First-year head coach Brooke Umland looks to turn the program around as Wolverines softball enters a new era.

Umland is in her sixth year of coaching high school softball. She coached the junior high team last year and spent the summer coaching the legion team. With the weather getting warmer and the snow disappearing, Umland is ecstatic to get her first season underway.

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Wadena-Deer Creek's first-year head coach Brooke Umland at practice on April 3, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“I am very excited,” she said. “Most of the girls that we have on the varsity team were on the legion team that I coached last summer. So, I have gotten some experience with them and am really excited to have a full school season together.”

Seniors Mercedes Schulz and Hailey Kircher are looking forward to a fresh start with their new head coach.

“I am excited and it's just a matter of waiting for the snow to melt,” Schulz said. “Then it’s staying on our game in the gym while doing as much as we can as well as we can.”


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Wadena-Deer Creek senior Mercedes Schulz and head coach at softball practice on April 3, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“It's going to come down to cramming a bunch of games in one week,” Kircher said. “I think with these extra practices inside will get us ready for those games. We are looking forward to a good season this year.”

Since the 2016 season, the Wolverines have a combined record of 39-84. WDC lost two seniors but has a platoon of starters returning. Those girls will play a key factor in what could be a turnaround season.

“I think right now, we have a lot of good team chemistry and the girls have been playing together for a long time,” Umland said. “They know what to do with each other and feed off of each other well. Having coached them last summer, they know exactly what I expect out of them. We are really excited to get things started. We are doing all the small things in the gym right now. We think this season is going to be a big success.”

“I think we have a good group of girls who are very competitive and want to win,” Schulz said. “They all want to come to the gym even though it is a struggle to. We bring the energy every single day whether it is in the gym or outside. We want it and we want to bring it.”

As the season has been delayed because of the weather, Kircher and the rest of the crew are taking all measures to stay game ready.

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Wadena-Deer Creek's Hailey Kircher prepares to throw the ball as the softball team practices indoors on April 3, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“To stay ready, it is going to be a mental thing,” she said. “These last few months of school are going to be busy for us but if we keep the right mindset, I think we’ll be able to pull out a few extra wins this year.”

Umland and her coaching have been exploring different ways to keep the girls wanting to come to practice as the elements keep the team inside.

“Right now we are making sure the girls don’t get burnt out,” she said. We are on week four of indoor practice right now. In addition to doing the small things like bunt coverages and stealing situations, we are trying to make sure we have fun as well. We played dodgeball against each other. So it’s the tiny things that get them excited to come to practice still so we don’t get burned out before the season starts.”


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Wadena-Deer Creek's Jenna Dykhoff during practice on April 3, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

As the start of the season approaches, the expectations for this year’s team are unknown. Umland hopes that the girls strive to improve their game no matter how or when the season ends.

“I have always had a one percent mentality where if we get one percent better every single day, by the end of the season, we will have a much better team and players,” she said. “Not necessarily having different girls on the team but better players because we are growing one percent better every single day. Hopefully, the team you see at the beginning of the season is different than the one you see at the end of the season.”

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Wadena-Deer Creek practices indoors as the team waits for the snow to melt on April 3, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

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