Even though there’s snow on the ground and the temperatures outside are frigid, softball and baseball players in South Dakota are already preparing for their upcoming seasons. In fact, most college seasons start within the next two weeks.
The South Dakota Renegades are a fastpitch softball club in the Sioux Empire of southeast South Dakota. Since the establishment of the organization in 2012, the program has developed some of the best softball players to come out of the Mt. Rushmore state.
Most softball teams are labeled by the year in which players are born. For example, the Renegades 2000 team consisted of players born at the turn of the new millennium. It was this exact team that produced some of the best softball players the state has ever seen.
Thirteen players were part of the Renegades 2000 roster, and today, all thirteen are playing softball at the collegiate level. Let that soak in… that’s a 100% approval rating.
Renegades 2000 Roster
Cylie Halvorson – Sioux Falls Roosevelt (SDSU)
Grace Glanzer – Sioux Falls Roosevelt (SDSU)
Callie Wethor – Brandon Valley (SDSU)
Sydney Nelson – Beresford (Minnesota State – Mankato)
Emma Hardin – Brookings (SDSU)
Becca Koupal – Mitchell (Augustana University)
Emilee Wilson – Esko, MN (West Texas A&M)
Maia Engelkes – Harrisburg (Auburn)
Hannah Loving – O’Gorman (SDSU)
Megan Guericke – Hanson (Northern Illinois)
Carley Goetschius – Sioux Falls Washington (Northern Illinois)
Morgan Demarias – Buffalo, MN (SDSU)
Ali Lindner – Harrisburg (University of Minnesota)
“I’m very fortunate that this group of girls were pretty much able to stay together throughout their whole playing career at that level,” said South Dakota Renegades President Dale Goetschius. “And with that, they won some very good tournaments.”
One of the earlier tournaments to hint at hw special this team was came in 2014 at the state tournament.
“When these girls were at a 14U age group, they won the 18U [state championship] in South Dakota,” Goetschius exclaimed. “So 14-year olds playing 17/18 year olds, they won the tournament, so it was really kind of the springboard for their success.”
In 2016, the South Dakota Renegades jumped off the charts and garnered some serious national attention.
In the late part of July, the team tested themselves against some of the best teams in the area by entering a regional tournament for the Premier Fastpitch Girls softball league. They ended up performing at an elite level, and by doing so, qualified for a spot in the PFG national tournament.
“We elected to go the PGF route for a couple of different reasons. To be able to go to their nationals, you have to win a [regional] tournament to qualify,” explained the Renegades President. “You can’t just go there and play, you need to earn your way into that.”
With some softball and baseball leagues, a team can purely go to a ‘national tournament’ if they have a big enough check book. Premier Girls Fastpitch doesn’t work that way – they aim to get the best of the best at their national tournament. It’s because of this that makes PGF one of, if not the best softball platforms in the country.
After winning at Premier Girls Fastpitch regionals, the Renegades moved on to play in the national tournament. There are typically 54-64 teams annually who compete at PGF nationals. It’s a double elimination week-long event that attracts hundreds of college scouts to that area to get a glimpse of some of the best talent in the United States.
The South Dakota Renegades answered the challenge and made one heck of a run that year in the national tournament, advancing all the way to the championship contest. In the end they were defeated by the Beverly Bandits, a team from the Chicago area, 3-2 in the title game. Even though they didn’t ‘win it all,’ it was still a year that put the Renegades and the state of South Dakota on the map when it came to club softball.
Coming off of what was a legendary season in 2016, the South Dakota Renegades were gifted another unique opportunity the following year. They were one of only five teams in the country who were invited to play against the US Junior Olympic team. The experience also came with the opportunity to play in the famous USA Softball Hall of Fame stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Today, all thirteen girls who were on the Renegades 2000 team are now playing college softball. Eight of the girls graduated high school in the spring of 2018, while the remaining five graduated in 2019.
This was a group that left their mark – a mark that few know about even to this day. But for those who do, it’s a team who will never be forgotten. Many have questioned if something like this will ever be replicated in South Dakota again. Who knows, only time will tell, but regardless if it does or not, the Renegade 2000 team will forever be viewed as one of the top softball rosters the state has ever seen.