It is a summer full of returning faces for the Northeast softball team.
Even in the coach’s box.
A dozen Rebels players who saw varsity action a season ago are back and they will be led by a familiar face: Travis Eversmeyer, Northeast’s head coach from 2008 to 2017, who returns for his 11th season at the helm.
All of the returning faces make the Rebels a formidable foe.
And the worst news for opponents is that none of those returnees are seniors. Northeast does not have one senior on its roster.
What the Rebels do have is another hard-hitting lineup. One that ranks among the Class 2A leaders in team batting average (.408, second in the class), hits (194, tops in the class), and runs scored (164, third in the class).
Northeast has five players batting over .400 in its first 17 games led by center fielder Neveah Hildebrandt, who is putting together a monster sophomore campaign.
The Rebels’ lead-off hitter is currently batting .516 with 32 hits – including two doubles, three triples, and four home runs – 29 runs and 18 RBIs.
Hildebrandt, who led the team in hits, runs, doubles, and triples as a freshman, is back for her third season in center where she is flanked by junior Makenna McDonald in left field and freshman Kayelee Hansen in right.
McDonald piled up 29 hits in her sophomore campaign and is well on her way to surpassing that total with 21 early hits. The Rebel has also scored 17 runs and driven in 15 more.
Hansen played in 23 games as an eighth grader and has been a fixture in right field this summer.
The Rebels have a veteran presence behind the plate in junior catcher Bree Mangelsen.
Already a four-year starter at the position, Mangelsen displays a live arm – she has already thrown out six potential base stealers – and a big bat.
In fact, Mangelsen is hitting .448 with 26 hits and is leading the team with her eight doubles, five home runs, and 26 RBIs. The Rebel has scored 21 runs for good measure.
Mangelsen is the target of a pitching staff that returns both of its starters from last year.
Sophomore Alexis Ehlers pitched over 150 innings as a freshman and won 13 games, while striking out 58 batters.
The Rebel has lowered her ERA in more than 70 innings of work this season, while fanning 40 batters in the early going.
Junior Alyssa Pessman has added three victories and 12 strikeouts of her own and is well on her way to surpassing her sophomore totals in both categories, while Hansen and fellow freshman Danica Eberhart have also made appearances this summer.
The right side of the Rebels’ infield is intact with juniors Audrey Morris and Claire Abbott returning to second base and first base, respectively.
Morris split her time between second base and the outfield during her sophomore season, but has stayed in the infield this summer and has started red-hot at the plate, batting .508 with 30 hits (including six doubles, a triple, and a home run), 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
Abbott hit .394 in her sophomore season with 41 hits and 27 RBIs.
The Rebel is more than halfway to that hit total with 21 hits this season to go with 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
Sophomore Valerie Spooner is back on the left side of the infield, but has seen more time this season at third base after playing the bulk of her freshman campaign at shortstop.
Spooner has gotten off to her own strong start at the plate, batting .418 with 23 hits – two of them triples, 18 RBIs, and 10 runs.
When not pitching, Ehlers – who is batting .420 with 21 hits, 25 runs, and a team-high 16 stolen bases – will see time at shortstop.
But in the many instances when Ehlers does pitch, freshman Madison Tarr has handled the position. The Rebel has shown good patience at the plate, coaxing seven walks and has scored 12 runs.
Junior Abby Boyer has made the most of increased at-bats as the Rebels’ designated hitter, batting .300 with 12 hits, including three doubles and a home run, and 16 RBIs.
The Rebels boast plenty of depth with sophomore Emma Fowler and freshmen Kaia Berggren and Elizabeth Chambers able to help out in the outfield or the base paths, while sophomore Kesley Holdgrafer and Eberhart can step in on the infield.
A pair of River Valley North teams – Camanche and Anamosa – made their debuts in the 3A state rankings last week and split their doubleheader on Monday.
The Rebels, who are 4-2 in the division, still have doubleheaders against both squads and will play a big role in who wins the North.