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A growing softball tradition at Williamsburg: Deep tournament runs, bright lights and loud sirens
After finishing second, third and third in the last three state tournaments, the Raiders are after something more this season
WILLIAMSBURG — It has become a midsummer tradition in this growing town of 3,300.
For the past three years, the events of a July weeknight have caused quite a fuss.
Around dusk, sirens generate from the west end of town, at the school’s athletics complex. The public gathers at the city square, watching emergency vehicles drive by slowly, carrying a couple of dozen high-school athletes and coaches.
This is no emergency. Just jubilation.
The ritual occurs after a regional-final softball game, if the home team wins.
“It’s an insane high,” said Shannon Finn, a Williamsburg High School junior and all-state outfielder for the Raiders. “Knowing we were going to state, it seemed the whole town, who wasn’t already at the game, lined up around the square.
“It was fun to see all of the little kids wearing their Williamsburg shirts.”
Just imagine the hubbub if the Raiders take that elusive final step and win a state championship.
“I really don’t want to talk about it,” senior catcher Jenna Thurm said. “I don’t want to jinx us.”
After second-, third- and third-place Class 3A state finishes the past three seasons, conditions are favorable for another deep Fort Dodge run.
Williamsburg (34-11 in 2022) returns nine starters and is the likely preseason 3A No. 1-ranked squad.
“We’ve got all the pieces,” Thurm said.
Senior pitcher Peyton Driscoll added, “Finishing second, third and third, it hurts. We’re ready to go win a championship. With the amount of returners we have, I think we can accomplish our goal if we keep at it.”
The mission begins Monday with a home doubleheader against Independence, and the Raiders will attack it with a veteran roster.
Driscoll and senior slugger Elle Ridgeway will be five-year starters. Thurm, Finn, senior Rylie Metz (second base) and sophomore Makenna Hughes (third base) will start for the third year.
“I remember being out there as a 13-year-old (eighth-grader), pitching against those seniors and juniors and being really nervous,” said Driscoll, who will pitch for Kirkwood Community College next year.
“But there wasn’t really another option. I was ready for it, and it made me into the pitcher I am today.”
Driscoll owns a 70-20 career record (19-5 last year) and 744 career strikeouts. She has had a habit of starting the season slowly, then closing with a flourish.
“I had been playing golf in the spring, so I was kind of late to the game,” she said. “I was slow out of the gates, but I got through it.”
This spring, no golf.
“Her drop ball has gotten a lot better since last season,” said Thurm, who has caught Driscoll since they were 8 years old. “Her rise is good, too.”
Offensively, Williamsburg lost table-setter Rylee Vercande to graduation, but the remainder of the lineup — which averaged 9.4 runs per game — is intact.
“We’ve got good hitting depth,” Driscoll said. “Get to our No. 9 hitter and you can’t say, ‘Oh, she’s an easy out.’”
A South Dakota State commit, Finn (.462, 43 runs, 36 stolen bases) is the likely heir apparent at leadoff.
“I’m not sure what the plan is,” she said. “Anything is fine, as long as I’m doing my job and getting on base.”
Ridgeway (Simpson College commit, .392, 58 RBIs) and Thurm (Indian Hills Community College, .346 36 RBIs) provide the pop. Ridgeway has 29 career home runs, including 10 last season; Thurm knocked five balls out of the yard in 2022.
It’s a veteran squad that has its community’s summer attention.
“The year after COVID (2021), everybody starting coming (to our games),” Ridgeway said. “We’ve had the student section in the outfield. People had their lawn chairs up by 9 in the morning.
“Some grandparents come and watch (batting practice).”
The Raiders’ intention is to take this Iowa County town on a joyride all summer, then hitch another tour around town July 21, after a triumphant climax in Fort Dodge.