FORT DODGE, Iowa — Pitching? Check. Defense? Check. Experience? Check.
The North Scott softball program showed this postseason it has the arms in the circle, the defense behind them and experience across the diamond to be a viable Class 4A state title contender again next summer.
The next step for coach Holly Hoelting's program is offensive consistency.
Despite not scoring more than four runs in any of its five postseason games, including no runs in the first five innings of the three state tournament contests, North Scott left the Rogers Sports Complex on Friday night with a state runner-up trophy following a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Carlisle.
"We worked a lot on defense this year," catcher Rachel Anderson said. "Because of that, we might have overlooked our offense a little bit. We really need to have a good offseason working on our own."
North Scott (28-15) was one of two teams in the 4A state tournament field not to have a player hit better than .385 for the season.
Sam Lee and Taylor Robertson were the Lancers' top offensive threats with averages around .360. The team hit below .300 for the season.
"We're going to be working really hard this offseason on hitting," Lee said. "We're going to make sure our offense is a lot more solid when we come back here next year."
Instead of peaks and valleys, Hoelting would like to see more steadiness over the course of a season.
"Fundamentally, we're in a good spot," she said. "We need to work on staying consistent throughout the whole year. We don't need someone to bat .700, but if you go 1-for-3, you go 1-for-3 for a long stretch."
Hoelting believes the length of North Scott's season could have played a role in the team's late offensive struggles. The Lancers were competing in late July for the first time since 2010.
"Playing an additional two weeks, not mechanically, but mentally it is a big difference with seeing different pitchers and the consistency," she said.
North Scott has two capable pitchers returning in Drew Lewis and Ryann Cheek. Lewis was flawless at the state tournament with 13 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Cheek, a first team all-conference pitcher, allowed three runs in almost nine innings at state.
"Drew adapted to that relief role this year, but I don't think that's what she is limited to moving forward," Hoelting said. "Ryann is someone we can start or bring in relief. I feel really good about our pitching."
North Scott returns every starter in its infield and two of its three outfielders.
"This gives us a lot of energy to get it done and work even harder than we did this year and win it all next year," Lewis said.
The Lancers lose two seniors — pitcher Ashlyn Shannon and outfielder Abby Moeller. Shannon was the team's starting pitcher in three postseason games, and Moeller led North Scott with six home runs.
"I'm excited for next year," Hoelting said. "Those two seniors really adapted to that leadership role. I'm excited for them to go off to college and continue to develop as people.
"Hopefully when we look back, they will have had a huge part of rebuilding this Lancer tradition that is so known to everyone."