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With seven starters returning, Wauwatosa East's softball team is hoping to bounce back in 2017 after taking a step back last season.

Tosa East went 14-14 and finished in fourth place in the Greater Metro Conference at 7-7 in 2015 but fell back to 8-16 and 3-11 in league play in 2016. The Red Raiders are confident a more experienced roster can help them make jump back up into the top half of the league this season.

"Although we are very young with only four upperclassmen, we have high expectations," Tosa East coach Ed Raue said. "All four of our upperclassmen -- Morgan Schmanski, Taylor Cure, Cora Bilitz and Meghan Erickson -- have been on varsity since their freshman years.

"In addition, the four sophomores played varsity last year. So we feel we have experience, regardless of their age. The four freshmen have all played many high-level summer league games and bring athleticism the program has not had in many years."

Leading the way for the Red Raiders will be senior first baseman Morgan Schmanski, who hit a school-record .548 with 34 hits, with a school-record eight doubles, a triple and 33 RBIs as a junior to earn first-team All-Greater Metro and Now Newspapers All-Suburban honors.

Schmanski led the Greater Metro in RBI in conference games for the second consecutive season with 21 and finished second in batting average at .561.

Junior Meghan Erickson returns at second base for the Red Raiders, while sophomore Shea Murphy will start at shortstop after earning honorable-mention All Greater Metro as a freshman. Murphy hit .387 over her final 14 games last season.

Senior Taylor Cure will move from catcher to third base this season, with sophomore Kenzie Miller starting behind the plate. Miller took over at catcher after eight games last season and had a strong freshman season.

Raue feels his outfield will be young but athletic, as sophomore Riley Breider will play center field with freshmen Emily Muetze, Maddy Ruella and Sadie Michaelis competing for the other two starting spots.

Tosa East returns its top two pitchers from last season in honorable mention All-Greater Metro utility selection senior Cora Bilitz and sophomore Analiese Glawe. They will be joined by freshman Stacia Raebel.

The biggest hole the Red Raiders will have to fill is that of Natalie Yahn, who was named second-team All-Greater Metro and honorable mention All-Suburban after hitting .355 with 20 walks and just five strikeouts in 62 at-bats.

"This team is very driven to accomplish big things," Raue said. "The conference is tough, as always, but graduated some very talented players. We expect to be in the battle for the top half of the conference and send this senior group out with the most wins since the 2002 graduating class, which would be a major feat considering the program was winless just 9 years ago."

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