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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Chargers set to take on top-rated South Hamilton

Monday, August 4, 2003

David will take on Goliath in the first round of the state softball tournament Monday night, but David will be armed with more than a slingshot for the matchup at Fort Dodge.

He will also have enthusiasm, a big winning streak and a rock-solid defense on his side.

Laurens-Marathon, the eighth-seed in the state tournament with a 17-14 record, will battle the top-ranked South Hamilton Hawks (36-3) at 6:15 p.m. Monday night at the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. The game will be the first time the Chargers have competed in the state tournament, but L-M head coach James Laughlin said his players have not strayed from their mission of coming home from Fort Dodge with three victories underneath their belt.

"They're very excited about it, but they're continuing to work hard in practice, and that's a really good sign," Laughlin said. "I don't want to get caught up in the glitz of state, because we still have a job to do, and the girls have taken that approach as well."

Laurens-Marathon's 17-14 record may be deceiving to many players and fans, as the Chargers have stormed through the last half of the season, winning 13 of 15 games and piling up victories over top teams like 35-game winner Southeast Webster.

The team was hobbled by injuries early in the year, as the veteran battery of pitcher Mandy Frye and catcher Betsy Behrens were both unable to play this summer after undergoing shoulder surgeries, and all-Twin Lakes Conference shortstop Jacqulyn Schmidt was still recovering from surgery on her anterior cruciate ligament.

The loss of both Frye and Behrens meant Laughlin had to bring up eighth-graders Bryn Johnson and Laci Hall to fill those roles, and both struggled at first trying to get used to the higher level of competition. Both have settled comfortably into their roles over the last 15 games, however, and Laughlin said Johnson and Hall have emerged as key players for the Chargers.

"Early on in the year they were still trying to get acclimated to the varsity level, and I think that showed in the first few games," Laughlin said. "They've really been able to grow into their roles, and they've really helped us out this year."

Schmidt has also been able to regain her form in the field and on the basepaths, something Laughlin said has been a positive for both his shortstop and the team as a whole.

"It was frustrating for her, because in her mind she knew what she wanted to do, but she just wasn't able to do it," Laughlin said. "Now she has fully recovered and is turning doubles into triples again, and that's great to see."

Another Charger who could play a deciding role in the outcome of the South Hamilton game is senior third baseman Lindsey Meyer, who Laughlin said has helped guide the team to the position it is in today.

"She's a great kid," Laughlin said. "She's definitely our leader. She's our leading hitter and probably our best fielder, and more importantly, she has a great head on her. She's like a second coach out on the field."

One of the biggest reasons for the recent success of the Chargers has been the lack of errors in the field, as the team has had two or fewer miscues in the majority of their wins this season. Laughlin said the play of the L-M defense will be especially critical against the Hawks, who have outscored their last two opponents by a combined margin of 23-4.

"Defense is one of our strongest suits, and that's going to be the telltale sign," Laughlin said. "If we make more than two errors it could be a long night. But, if we keep the errors down then we definitely have a chance to do well."

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