By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
For softball teams across the state the wait is over.
Monday is opening day for softball in Iowa with the final destination a spot at the state tournament on July 17-21 at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
In between today’s first pitches and the state finals on July 21 fans have two months to catch these nine players that rank among the best in the area.
Taleah Smith, West High
Senior, Center Fielder
The Northern Iowa recruit has proved a spark at the top of the order since her freshman season.
Last year was the best season yet for the speedy Smith who led the Women of Troy with a .490 batting average and ranked second in Class 5A with 47 stolen bases.
Smith scored 47 runs and drove in 24 from her leadoff spot last season on her way to first team all-state honors.
Sarah Lehman, Regina
A dominant figure in the circle Lehman has established herself as the top pitcher in Class 2A while leading Regina to back-to-back title game appearances.
Lehman was 15-11 with a 1.32 ERA in 191 innings last season and ranked eighth in the state and fourth in 2A with 293 strikeouts.
She is also weapon in the middle of the Regina batting order after slugging five home runs and driving in 18 runs as a junior.
Bryn Hanrahan, Solon
Senior, Center Fielder
One of the most decorated players in the state, Hanrahan has been a first or second team all-state pick in each of her first four seasons.
A career .452 with 231 hits in her prep career, Hanrahan was a first-team all-state, all-conference and all-district pick a year ago after batting .438 with 18 doubles and six triples.
The Iowa State signee ranked fifth in 3A in hits (67) and sixth in runs (53) last season and also drove in 42 runs and stole 28 bases.
Ellie Dixon, City High
A starter since her freshman season Dixon is one of two seniors on the City High roster and the leader of the Little Hawk infield.
She is also coming off the best season of her career when she led City High in nearly every major statistical category while earning second team all-conference honors.
Dixon hit a team-best .375 last season with 13 doubles, six home runs and 33 runs scored.
Claire Navara, Clear Creek Amana
Navara earned third team all-state honors last season when she hit a team-high .367 and drove in 24 runs.
A Luther College signee, Navara had 10 double and was second on the team with 31 runs last season while being named to the WAMAC West Division first team.
A second baseman a year ago Navara joins freshman shortstop Karsyn Stratton to give the Clippers a strong middle infield.
Brylee Klosterman, West High
Klosterman made an immediate impact as one of the top eighth graders in the state last season ranking third on the team with a .411 after.
The left-handed hitting outfield showed some pop in her debut season with 18 extra-base hits including four home runs.
Klosterman ranked third on the team in both RBI (32) and runs (43) and should be in for an even bigger season this summer.
Dalana Kron, West Branch
A fifth-year starter at shortstop, Kron is coming off her best season in a West Branch uniform.
Kron led West Branch with a .423 batting average and ranked second on the team with 27 runs last year while helping the Bears to a 16-21 record.
A steady defender at shortstop and the unquestioned team leader, Kron had 18 stolen bases and drove in 18 runs last season.
Jess Heick, Solon
Heick was a key cog in the middle of a Solon lineup that ranked fourth in Class 3A in runs (343) and fifth in batting average (.379) last season.
A second team all-state pick last year, Heick hit .420 with 17 doubles and eight home runs and ranked sixth in 3A with 54 RBI.
Heick also stole 26 bases last season and has the versatility to play all over the diamond defensively.
Karsyn Stratton, Clear Creek Amana
Stratton burst on to the scene last season when she started at shortstop for the Clippers as an eighth grader and ranked third on the team with a .340 batting average.
The athletic Stratton should be in for an even bigger season this year after driving in 25 runs and stealing 34 bases last season.