NEW ULM - It's often said that in high school softball, a team can only go as far as it's pitching and defense takes it.
The New Ulm softball team had a very good mix of the two and the Eagles rode that to a second straight state championship this past year.
New Ulm pitcher Sydney Schuck didn't have to be overpowering, relying on her change-up to make opposing batters look silly. Her defense, which was led by senior shortstop Brittany Hoffmann, also routinely made difficult plays look routine.
Schuck posted a 34-3 record in her career, including a 21-3 record this year. She struck out 128 batters this season and had a 1.01 ERA. At the plate, she hit two home runs, had 16 hits and 25 RBI and was named All-South Central Conference.
Hoffmann, on the other had, had a very successful four-year career for the Eagles. She ended up with 21 career home runs. She hit .446 with 37 hits (16 doubles, five home runs) and 32 RBI.
The two were named the 2013 All-Journal Softball Co-Players of the Year as voted on by The Journal's sports writers.
All Journal Softball
The following is the 2013 All-Journal softball team, as voted on by The Journal Sports Writers. The players are nominated by their coach and The Journal staff writers rank their top 10 players based on all of the nominees and circle an additional five. Points are as follows: 15 points for first place vote, 14 for second, etc. First place votes are in parenthesis.
1. Sydney Schuck, New Ulm - 58 (2)
2. Brittany Hoffmann, New Ulm - 58 (2)
3. Kimberly Frank, Wabasso, 50
4. Lisa Helget, Cathedral, 49
5. Karlee Pfaff, Cathedral, 42
6. Ellie Schneider, New Ulm, 41
7. Rachel Strandmark, New Ulm, 29
8. Anne Schwarz, Cathedral, 26
9. Maddy Helget, St. Mary's, 23
10. Abby Hauser, Cathedral, 21
11. Erin McDurmont, GFW, 18
12. Carlie Maasz, MVL, 16
13. Paige Pautzke, Cathedral, 15
14. Charlotte Pfingsten, MVL, 12
15. Becky Roiger, Springfield, 10
16. Abby Kamm, New Ulm, 6
17. Karissa Fleck, St. Mary's, 3
18. Shawna Rogotzke, Wabasso, 3
After winning a state title last year, Hoffmann and Schuck were determined to make it happen again in their senior year. Once the Eagles got to state, they put on a hitting clinic in the first two games, scoring 22 combined runs.
Then in the championship game, Schuck shined with a 1-0 shutout, picking up the game's only RBI in the process.
"It was a fun way to go out and end my high school career," Hoffmann said. "It's kind of sad, knowing I won't be back next year, but I'm not done playing softball so that's a good thing."
Hoffmann will play at the University of Sioux Falls next year. While she has four more years to play the sport, Schuck will attend North Dakota State but won't play softball.
The two have been playing together since they can remember. They both have an admiration for what each one brings to the team and a good friendship off the field.
"It's always kind of fun, when she throws change-ups and watching girls miss," Hoffmann said.
"She's had one more year of varsity experience, but we were brought up as seventh-graders to C-squad, so we've been playing together a long time and we've built that trust," Schuck said.
While Hoffmann was the big bat in the middle of the order for the Eagles, Schuck was the one that kept the other team's bats swinging and missing. The change-up was used often, and she was able to keep hitters frustrated.
"I learned it when I was 10-years old," she said. "Softball's really big here and all of the softball fields were filled up, so I had to go the baseball fields by Washington and that's where I learned to throw with my dad. I obviously know it makes them look silly, [second baseman] Ellie Schneider and I, I would turn around and we'd just be giggling."
The seniors got the last laugh with the state championship at Caswell Park. They both know the opportunities they had these past couple of years will be remembered by them and New Ulm softball fans and parents forever.
"Some people don't even get the chance to get there, and we were there and we said 'we might as well just win it again,'" Schuck said.
"[I feel] Really lucky, some teams don't even make it to state, so I'm lucky to be able to make it twice and win it twice, too," Hoffmann said.