Sixth-year head coach Erin Bohlmann (left) is joined by younger sister, Moriah, in guiding Kuemper Catholic’s softball team.
Sixth-year head coach Erin Bohlmann (left) is joined by younger sister, Moriah, in guiding Kuemper Catholic’s softball team.

July 3, 2017

To the Kuemper Catholic High School girls’ softball players, Head Coach Erin Bohlmann’s talk was almost an instant replay.

“I came into the dugout the other day, I said something to the girls, and then they all burst out laughing,” she recalled.

It seems that moments earlier, Bohlmann’s new assistant coach this season had told the team the same thing almost word-for-word.

That’s what happens when two coaches are both driven by the same love of the game, intensity and dedication.

Exuberance for the game runs in the family.

Erin has been joined on the coaching staff this season by her younger sister, Moriah Bohlmann, who just wrapped up a stellar softball career at Morningside College in Sioux City, the same school where Erin graduated five years ago and also enjoyed a highly decorated career.

When an assistant’s position opened and it was suggested Moriah may make a good candidate, Erin, who was beginning her sixth season as head coach, jumped on board with the idea.

“I knew we have the same philosophies, so it just seemed to be pretty much a no-brainer if (Moriah) wanted to do it,” Erin said.

Erin, who will be student teaching fourth grade this fall at Morningside Elementary School in Sioux City to finish work toward her education degree, earned her coaching authorization so that she could join the Kuemper staff.

After she’d finished classroom work for the semester at Morningside, Moriah practiced with the Mustangs team earlier in the day and then drove to Carroll for Kuemper’s afternoon practices.

Kuemper, 17-13, close their regular season tonight with a Hawkeye 10 Conference doubleheader at Shenandoah, then begin play in the Class 3A Regional against Southeast Valley at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Harcourt.

Pouring their hearts into the game for many years has bonded the Bohlmann family, which also includes dad Blaine, who owns Bohlmann Concrete in Denison; mom Bonnie, a former preschool teacher; older sister Lindy, who graduated from Denison High School in 2005 and went on to play at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and then Dana College at Blair, Nebraska. Erin attended Denison her first two years of high school before transferring to Kuemper, where she graduated in 2008, and Moriah graduated from Kuemper in 2013.

Erin played softball two seasons at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and then transferred to Morningside. Moriah started at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, but left after a year for Morningside.

The Bohlmann sisters’ softball careers have intertwined over the years. Erin and Lindy were Denison teammates, Erin was an assistant coach and then head coach during Moriah’s Kuemper career, Erin and Moriah both had outstanding careers at Morningside, and now Erin and Moriah are coaching together.

“So we have a lot of fun softball memories,” Erin said, adding, “It’s a good thing we get along so well.”

Traveling right along with their girls have been parents Blaine and Bonnie, who live in Denison, and have driven to so many of their daughters’ college and high school games that Erin and Moriah call them the “Road Warriors” and “Pavement Pounders.”

Blaine and Bonnie don’t just sit back and cheer on the Kuemper team, but Erin puts them to work, with mom keeping the traditional handwritten scorebook for each game while dad tackles the scoring on iPad.

“I don’t think they ever missed a college game that one of us three girls played,” Moriah said. “They’ve always found a way to get there.”

Their daughters’ softball successes have rewarded Blaine and Bonnie for their travel.

Lindy, who now lives in California, played right field at Dana and received Great Plains Athletic Conference first-team honors.

Primarily an outfielder at Morningside, Erin was named first-team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference in 2010 and 2011, first-team Academic All-America in 2011 and Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 2011. Her career stats for 2010 and 2011 included: 354 batting average (.322 and .379, respectively each season), 72 RBIs. 411 on-base percentage, and .634 slugging percentage (total bases divided by number of at-bats). In six pitching appearances in 2011 she posted a 4-1 record and 1.50 earned-run average. And Erin earned a spot in the Morningside record book. She’s tied with two other Mustang players for the single-season home-run record, with the 14 she hit in 2011.

“She was quite the home-run hitter when she went to Morningside,” Moriah said of Erin, who also smacked eight in 2010.

While Moriah played at Morningside, the Mustangs’ team achievements included:  GPAC regular-season championships in 2014, 2016 and 2017; GPAC Post-Season Tournament championships in 2014 and 2016; NAIA Softball National Championship opening-round participant in 2014 through 2017; NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round champion in 2016; and NAIA Softball World Series participant in 2016, the first-ever NAIA Softball World Series appearance by a team from the GPAC. Moriah was named first-team All-GPAC and first-team Academic All-America this season, as well as Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 2016 and 2017.

This season, Moriah started all 52 games for a team that was ranked either ninth or 10th in the NAIA all season, qualified for the opening round of the national championship tournament, and finished with a record of 40-12. She batted .356 (second highest on the team) and led the team in total hits (62), doubles (14), triples (4), RBIs (46), and slugging percentage (.586).  She was second on the team in home runs with six.

Erin, 29, and Moriah, 22, expressed mutual admiration for each other’s softball careers.

Erin, who was a Kuemper assistant a year before becoming head coach, noted Moriah’s versatility — she played every position except catcher — was invaluable at Kuemper. In college, she found her niche at first base, but she had to battle daily to gain the starting job midway through her junior season.

“I enjoyed watching her mental toughness,” Erin said of Moriah. “She transferred (from Union University to Morningside), so she had to earn her way to the starting position, and she really embraced that challenge. She seized her opportunities to show what she could do, which is tough to do when you get a shot just here or there.”

Erin added, “I think that’s made her a very good coach because she’s been in the shoes of someone trying to earn a spot. She knows the mental fortitude it takes to come out every day and try to earn a position and yet be a good teammate at the same time. You want to win the position, yet you want to uplift your teammate too and do what’s best for the team. That’s also a good life skill to have — to be a good team player.”

At first base, Moriah utilized her childhood dance and gymnastics lessons to become a sure-fielding defensive player.

“I loved watching her do the splits and making outstanding plays at first base,” Erin said. “Moriah is one of those first basemen you appreciate because they make the play, whereas the ball might get by somebody else. I can appreciate as a coach and player that a good first baseman makes all the difference in the world.”

What impressed Moriah about following Erin and her college teammates?

“The level of intensity and watching them make all these amazing plays,” she said. “And being a young, aspiring player, that really got me fired up to become a good softball player, because throughout my childhood I watched my two older sisters play at this high level of intensity. And (Erin) was always the most-animated and most-positive player on the field. She was always fun to watch, and that made me want to play like that.”

Jessica Jones-Sitzmann, who’s coached 19 seasons as Morningside and worked with both Erin and Moriah, remarked, “They’re two great gals and total team players. They looked out for everybody on the team, learned the game as they went and embraced everything. They are great learners of the game. They worked hard, were great team players and great student-athletes. They were very good in the classroom, as well (both majoring in elementary education, Erin with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and Erin a 3.95).”

The sisters both have a remarkable, contagious positivity that they brought to the softball diamond, Jones-Sitzmann noted.

“That’s just them. They’re very positive about things, and if things aren’t going well, they look for ways to make it a better day. It’s just their vibe” Jones-Sitzmann commented, adding, “They were just great role models on our team and were somebody I looked to to lead our team. And now it’s fun to watch them coach and share their passion.”

Senior firstbaseman Paige Tiefenthaler has played for Erin throughout her Kuemper career and has now seen the dynamic with Moriah joining the staff.

“They’re a really great pair,” Tiefenthaler said. “They complement each other a lot because each of them has experience in her own way.”

Moriah knows new techniques, while Erin can point out many little details to improve players’ games, she said.

Tiefenthaler said players have enjoyed the atmosphere of hard work mixed with fun, as well as seeing moments of sisters playfully bickering and teasing each other.

And Tiefenthaler, too, noted they sometimes sound quite alike.

At a recent practice, Tiefentaher recalled, Moriah corrected a player’s mistake, using the same words, same tone, same style they’ve heard from Erin.

“All of us kind of stopped and said, ‘Wait, what that Coach Bohlmann (Erin) or Coach B (Moriah)?’ We had to do a double take,” Tiefenthaler said.

The players use the “Coach Bohlmann” and “Coach B” titles for the coaches.

“That’s important to know, then we know who’s who,” Erin said. “Because I’m older I get my whole name. She (Moriah) gets the abbreviated.”

Erin credits Moriah, fresh off her college season, with boosting the team’s energy and gaining the players’ attention.

“She really brings that intensity back up,” Erin said.

“I can say, ‘Coach B, go demonstrate what that should look like,’ and she gets out there. Then the girls say, oh, they can do that. They just didn’t know they could because they hadn’t seen it modeled yet.”

Moriah also has the offensive credentials both from her career at Morningside and Kuemper, where she still holds many school records.  

Moriah said she and Erin “complement each other well when we’re coaching because we have the same philosophy but we have different strengths, a little bit different attitudes and a little different approaches. So we bring a variety of ideas together.”

That main philosophy is to play both enthusiastically and inspired by God, said Erin, whose career coaching record is now 99-102 including 20-14 and 24-12 the previous two seasons.

Indeed, both Erin and Moriah are driven strongly by their Catholic faith and are thankful they coach at Kuemper where they can emphasize faith as the core of athletics and all other aspects of life.

“Coaching at a Catholic school, we’re really able to draw on the faith component, and everything else flows from that,” Erin said.

She added, “If you approach everything with the idea of ‘I’m going to be inspired by God,’ then you use your gifts to the best of your ability, that will glorify God. Now not everyone has the same gifts and talents, so some people will have more quantitative success. But if you use your gifts to the best of your ability, then it’s a success no matter what. Everyone can fulfill their role, because they know they’ve used their gifts the best way they could.”

Erin said veteran assistant coach Carol Strautman bolsters the faith message by challenging the players to think deeply about what they’re saying during prayers and make them as meaningful as possible.

“She’s been the glue to hold Kuemper softball together in the transitions with coaches before I came,” Erin said of Strautman. “She brings that element of experience and nurturing and motivational aspects.”

After she receives her teaching credentials, Moriah said, she’d like to stay in the Carroll or Denison area. Another possible pursuit for her is speech pathology and special education.

Erin said she hopes the sister act can stay together a little longer.

If Moriah’s career took her somewhere that prevented them from coaching together, Erin said, “That would be a bummer. I really love having her coach with me. This has been my favorite year so far.”