The STC softball team gathered on Sunday July 27 for their annual end of the season banquet. The team, along with coaches and parents, celebrated a group of players that has continued to show improvement over the last four seasons.
Much of that improvement could be attributed to the 2014 senior class that has been playing together since the eighth grade. Those seniors include Tori Appelgate, Madison Baack, Sam Holtz, Trisha Walz, and Hailee Weiss. Together they, along with their teammates, have markedly improved the Trojan record over the past four years. The team has more than doubled their wins since the 2010-11 season in which they went 3-28.
This season the Trojans finished 12-18, which Coach Chelsea Ahrens admits was not quite what they wanted. "We have to give credit to the NICL conference. We did finish in 4th place, behind three ranked teams East Marshall, AGWSR, and BCLUW," said Ahrens.
AGWSR and East Marshall were both state qualifiers this season. East Marshall ended up placing fourth in the tournament after a 10-3 loss to Greene County. AGWSR came back to take third at State. After losing 3-1 to Kee High, the Cougars bested Martensdale-St. Mary's 9-7.
Ahrens noted, "Ten of our 18 losses were to ranked opponents. I think at the beginning of the year we were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform better. We had these five seniors that had started for four years and our last year in the NICL we thought, this is it, this is our year and when we weren't winning we were getting really down on ourselves, myself included. I think the last couple of weeks we just shook off the pressure and started having some fun together and really played some good softball."
"We also did improve in almost every offensive and defensive category from last year. We increased our team batting average; the number of runs scored, as well as brought down the number of errors on defense. So we have a lot to be proud of, including our five seniors who had career years. All five (Hailee, Sam, Trisha, Madison, and Tori) saved the best for last for sure," said Ahrens.
While it is always hard to lose a group of athletes like the class of 2014 produced the Trojans look to move forward. "It will be new chapter that is for sure," said Coach Ahrens, "We lose a lot of experience in our lineup, five out of nine starters will be tough to replace. However, we also have some great kids coming back that I am excited to see perform at the varsity level. Three seniors Naomi Hoskey, Julie Wise, and Catie Collins, who we have depended on for awhile now will get their opportunities."
The Trojans will be facing different yet familiar competition as they move to the WaMaC Conference. Ahrens is preparing for that move saying, "Next year we will be in the WaMaC Conference which will provide some very tough competition as well. There were four state qualifiers from the WaMaC this past year, Center Point-Urbana, West Delaware, Solon, and Clear Creek-Amana, and we play three of them next year. The WaMaC is traditionally a VERY strong softball conference and I am sure it will continue to be."
Each season coaches from the NICL west conference vote to give players special awards. Earning second team all-conference honors were Trisha Walz (first base), Hailee Weiss (shortstop), Tori Appelgate (outfield), and Sam Holtz (utility). Madison Baack (second base) was also listed as an all-conference honorable mention selection.
The Trojans also voted to award players with the following team awards: Catie Collins, most improved; Trisha Walz, best defense; Tori Appelgate, best offense; Natalie Stadler, most enthusiastic and Hailee Weiss, most valuable player.
Appelgate, who led the team in hits and runs scored, was also named to the 3A Central All District Team and Class 3A 3rd Team All State. Appelgate hit .366 with 37 hits, 32 runs scored and nine doubles. She has been a four-year starter for the Trojans, starting a total of 122 games in her high school career.