NORTH CRAWFORD - Lots of teams give out awards for the most improved player on the team at the end of the season. However, if the Ridge and Valley Conference were giving out an award for the most improved softball team in 2017, the hands-down winner would have to be North Crawford.
The 2017 Trojan softball team featured a brand new coach in Angie Wall and a team so small they were forced to play with just eight players on seven occasions. Nevertheless, the little softball team managed to win three games going 3-11 in conference play and 3-16 overall. There were a couple of very close and extremely interesting games, but more on that later.
Coach Wall took over the team last season with promise to build it on what she called “playing basic softball.” It seemed to work as the team showed marked improvement throughout the season, despite being forced to play many games with just eight players.
How much improvement? Quire a bit actually the Trojans started the season losing to Riverdale 19-0, but things changed when they faced the Chieftains in the regional. North Crawford was pumped and ready to win that game, according to coach Wall. Unfortunately, the game in Muscoda was re-scheduled due to rain. When the game was finally played North Crawford was still ready. In fact, the Trojans led 7-6 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. They seemed poised to win, but two errors allowed Riverdale to score two runs and win the game. Despite the loss, it still was a far cry from the 19-0 loss at the beginning of the season.
Another thing happened that attested to this team’s improvement last year. In the first game against Wauzeka-Steuben, the Trojans lost 15-2 to the Hornets. However, in the second game of the season against Wauzeka-Steuben, North Crawford lost by just one run. By chance, the same umpires officiated at both games. Unsolicited, the umpires took it upon themselves to write a note to North Crawford Athletic director describing what they saw as the phenomenal improvement in the team.
Wall’s plan is to keep improving and the team seems up for it.
Like most teams, the Trojans lost some players to graduation. Allison Anderson a left fielder who provided the team with some offensive power is gone. As is second baseman Cheyanna Washburn. Washburn battled a knee injury last season, which limited her playing time.
Although the Anderson and Washburn graduated, many others are returning. Combined with some new faces, Wall now boasts a “a mighty roster of 12.” The coach believes the numbers will help. Maybe the days of playing with just eight players are behind them.
It starts with a solid core of three seniors, including Morgan Eitsert in centerfield, Brianna Swiggum at first base and Abbie Pickett, pitching and playing third base.
Returning juniors include Krystal Abby, who will pitch and play third base; Gracie Babb, who will handle the catching; and Riley Chellevold, who will play left field.
The lone returning sophomore on this year’ squad is Lydia Barr, who will play shortstop. She played second base last year.
However, there are two sophomores new to the team this season. They are Emily Hanson, who will play second base and Hannah Kemp who plays right field. Kemp moved into he district this year.
There are also three freshmen new to the tem this year. They are Laura Eitsert, Trina Bolstad and Audrey Larson. All are expected to play outfield positions.
“It’s setting up better this season,” Wall said. “We actually have the numbers we need.”
One of the team strengths last year that seems to be carrying over to this year is that they all get along and support each other, according to Wall.
Pickett, the team’s starting pitcher, has improved quite a bit with practice.
Swiggum is a solid first baseman. While Morgan Eitsert seems to be adapting well to her role in left field having played center field last season.
The team has an early win under its belt, and as of this writing was 1-1 in the weather-ravaged season.
Wall says the team’s strength is not giving up. Even in the loss to Highland this season, the team’s tenacity showed through. Down 1-0 in fourth inning, the Trojans eventually lost 6-0. However, they stuck with a tough opponent all the way.
“They don’t give up,” Wall emphasized.
The young players on the team are in a difficult spot, Wall noted. She said overcoming some of that inexperience would probably be the team’s biggest challenge.
Wall is happy to see the team’s hitting coming around.
The team’s goal is to try to improve on and off the field. Ultimately, the team’s goal is to improve their record to .500
The teams to watch in the conference, in Wall’s opinion, are Ithaca, DeSoto and Wauzeka-Steuben.
“They’ve been the top dogs in the conference for years,” Wall said.
That may be, but they better watch out for the ever-improving North Crawford Trojans.