South Tama County's softball team's season has been finished for almost a month, but that didn't stop head coach Chelsea Ahrens from handing out awards at the postseason banquet recently.
The Lady Trojans celebrated the season at their annual banquet. Along with the potluck dinner, they handed out awards, which included conference academic honors, tournament medals, all-conference honors and team awards.
"We had a phenomenal year and we can only get better from here," Ahrens said. "We have 15 of our 17 girls coming back next year. We have a lot of potential to get better and win that conference title. I think that's something we can do."
Ahrens and assistant coach Olivia Van Zante distributed All-North Iowa Cedar League awards to their players. They started with the All-NICL All-Academic honors, which are given to junior and seniors who earn a varsity letter and maintain a 3.3 or higher GPA.
The STC softball players who earned the academic honors were juniors Hailee Weiss, Madison Baack, Araceli Angel (team manager), Trisha Walz, Samantha Holtz and Tori Appelgate; and seniors Jade Rohach and Riley Craun.
A pair of Lady Trojans also earned All-NICL honors for their play on the field this summer. They were the two seniors on the roster. Rohach hauled in first-team All-NICL honors as an outfielder. She led the Lady Trojans with a .394 batting average, which ranked 11th in the NICL West Division. Rohach hit one home run this summer. Her slugging percentage of .514 ranked eighth in the NICL West. The other All-NICL award went to Craun, who earned honorable mention honors as a catcher. Craun batted .333 with seven doubles and one home run for the Lady Trojans.
Craun and Rohach also won two of the five awards given out by the STC coaches. Craun won the most valuable award and Rohach won the best offense award. The other three awards went to Baack (most improved), Weiss (best defensive) and freshman Natalie Stadler (most enthusiastic).
Before handing out awards, Ahrens recapped the Lady Trojans' season. They won two more games than they did in 2012, in addition to playing tougher in almost every game.
"We finished 12-21," Ahrens said. "It's maybe not the best record, but we could have a lot more wins than that. We finished fourth in the NICL. That was a goal of ours and we were able to do that behind three very tough teams, including two state qualifiers in East Marshall and Ackley (AGWSR).
"Of our 21 losses, 10 of them were by three runs or less," she said. "If you think about games that could have gone one way or the other, we could have had 20 wins or something along those lines. We were win most every game and I think you know that."
South Tama played seven ranked teams during the summer. STC played NICL West opponents East Marshall, AGWSR and BCLUW twice. The other ranked teams were Benton, Lisbon, Jesup and Lynnville-Sully. East Marshall, AGWSR and Lynnville-Sully also qualified for state this year.
"We played seven ranked opponents this year, so we had a tough schedule," Ahrens said. "We faired fairly well against them. Maybe in the beginning of the year, not so well, but the second time around, we definitely scared those teams. We scared a few of them."
South Tama did scare several teams, including East Marshall, who beat STC 4-3 and 6-4 during the regular season. The Lady Trojans' offense helped the team scare opponents. They averaged 4.72 runs per game, which ranked fourth in the NICL West, and had 261 hits, which ranked third in the conference division.
"We averaged almost five runs a game and that's a lot," Ahrens said. "Our hitting was phenomenal this year. We broke a lot of records. We hit .279 as a team, which is a very good average. Anything over .260 or .270 is a good year."
While recapping the season, Ahrens talked about the moment in which she thought her team turned the corner and began improving its play on the field. She thought it was the June 17 game at Grundy Center. The Spartans led 8-6 in the top of the seventh inning before STC scored six runs in the inning and won 12-8.
"When I think about what defines our season and what summarizes it all, I think back to this big momentum swing," Ahrens said. "We were just going through the season and things were going like last year. We were playing tough and all of a sudden we started to believe in each other. I think that moment was the game at Grundy Center. I could feel it anyway.
"We lost seven games in a row after the Grundy Center win," she added. "It seemed like things weren't going well. Every one of those seven losses, we were in and we were playing tough. Then after that, we went on to win six of our last 10 games. I really think that was the momentum shift. We got girls back from the New York trip. We were playing as a team, believing in each other, believing in ourselves and we were scaring everybody."
South Tama won six of its nine games before the season-ending loss at East Marshall. Included in those wins was a playoff win at Union, which made history.
"We won our very first postseason game since what we decided was 1990, so it's been 24 years," Ahrens said. "That's just phenomenal. We had great energy and it was a fun win."
The end of the banquet focused on looking forward to the 2014 season. The Lady Trojans will be trying to replace Craun and Rohach, but they will also return seven of their nine starters, including pitchers freshman Kallie Hala and Holtz.
"South Tama softball is here to stay and this season really defines that," Ahrens said. "We're not sneaking up on anybody anymore. They know we're a good team. They know we have good athletes. We're going to hit the ball and we're going to give 100 percent and scare some people. We're not only going to scare people, but in the future we're going to be the team that people are scared to play.
"That culture has shifted in the last three or four years," she said. "It really has. I credit our kids. I credit the parents. It does not fall on me. It falls on you girls showing up, wanting to play ball and doing what coach and I ask you to do."