By: Madison Feldhahn

Winterset High School in Winterset, Iowa, has set a winning tradition. The Huskies have made the state tournament four years in a row and haven’t had a losing season since 2000. Head coach Steve Corkrean and his program are the reigning back-to-back state champions and are looking to defend their title come May.

The Huskies’ state title capped off an impressive 28-12 year. Winterset defeated Carlisle 11-6 and Fort Dodge 6-4 before taking on North Scott in the state final. The Huskies topped North Scott 5-3.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Corkrean said of their state title. “But when I reflect back, we had good players. They were led by Jena Young, who didn’t play all year. She was a great leader. Even though she didn’t play, she was right there with those kids.”

Young, the 2022-23 Iowa Softball Gatorade Player of the Year, was out with an ACL injury. She led the state in home runs with 22 in 2022 and was a key part of their 2022 title win. She now plays at the University of Iowa.

Corkrean took over the Winterset program in 2001. The 2001 team went 18-18. Since then, the program has made it to the state tournament thirteen times. He has coached the team to five state titles, with three of the titles coming in the last four years. Corkrean was inducted into the Iowa Girls Coaches’ Association Softball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2021. He credits the girls for his success.

“We have just some really good kids,” Corkrean said. “They just want to do what those other teams have done. They feed off each other.”

The Iowa high school softball season takes place over the summer. It’s the only state in the country to have a summer softball season. Corkrean says it gives the Huskies an advantage. The girls spend all school year being coached and are ready to go when the season comes around.

When asked about key returners, Corkrean said, “The two that pitched in the state tournament – Molly Breeding and Brynn Acton. Molly’s a senior and Brynn’s a junior. Kylie Nelson is a freshman and she’s coming on pretty fast. We have some pretty high expectations for her.”

The Huskies have quite a few talented pitchers lined up over the next few years. In addition to Nelson, the Huskies have three other underclassmen pitchers and a handful of junior high pitchers coming in. Corkrean’s Huskies continue pitching throughout the offseason in sessions led by the upperclassmen.

Winterset plays in the Racoon River Conference. The nine-school conference had three schools ranked in the top 10 of the final Iowa High School Softball Rankings last year. Corkrean thinks the conference is one of the toughest in Iowa. He knows preparation early in the season will lead to better performance later. To ensure his team is prepared, Corkrean schedules tough games.

“Every year, we’ll be on the bus headed to Valley to play them. That’s usually our first game of the year. The whole trip, I’m thinking, ‘Why did I schedule these guys? They’re the best.’ But that’s the way our conference is,” Corkrean said. “We don’t really have any nights where we’re playing somebody we might be better than. I think every game is kind of a toss-up. We look forward to it. It’s just made Winterset who we are. That schedule. It’s made us pretty tough.”

Tough is a great way to describe the Huskies. The program is no stranger to high expectations. Corkrean doesn’t want his players to get caught up in the pressure. Instead, he wants them to take it day by day and give their best. Everything else will figure itself out.

“The goal is to get to the state tournament. They know what they’ve got to do to get to the state tournament. If we can get to the state tournament, the rest will kind of take care of itself,” said Corkrean.

The Winterset Huskies’ season will start on May 20 when they travel to face North Polk.

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