Waukon softball team plays to 7-25 record with overall young squad during 2017 season

Replacing nearly two-thirds of its starting line-up from graduation losses last season and bringing back just two seniors in a limited amount of four returning varsity veterans, the Waukon softball team battled through a 2017 season defined by overall youth and varsity inexperience. With so many holes to fill and not much varsity experience returning, second-year head coach Amanda Eggerichs worked throughout the season to try and find the right pieces to fit the puzzles of her offensive and defensive line-ups, that effort resulting in a 7-25 overall season record for the softball Tribe that included a mark of 3-15 that placed the Indians sixth in the final seven-team Northeast Iowa Conference standings.

“This season’s greatest challenge was trying to find a line-up that flowed well together,” Coach Eggerichs explained. “As stated at the beginning of the season, we had a lot of positions to fill from last year and it was a challenge to find where which girls would be the most successful on the field and in the batting order. Therefore, it just took a lot of trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t, with a lot of it simply varying based on our competition’s strengths. Another big challenge was simply our competition. We played against some very, very tough teams this season.”

The flip-side of this year’s line-up puzzles was the fact that a number of younger players saw their first varsity action, some of the youngest ladies on this season’s squad perhaps finding a varsity home for the next several seasons. Throughout the season fans could find as many as three sophomores, four freshmen, and even a couple eighth graders contributing to the Indian line-up at the plate or in the field, all in an effort to not only try and find the right combination for this current season but to also build the future of the program.

“Our greatest accomplishment is our improvement,” Coach Eggerichs said of this season’s brightest spots. “I can easily say we were playing our best game at the end of the season and that is definitely what we strive for. The girls need to carry that right into the start of next season and can do that by working harder in the off-season. Many of the girls had much more confidence by the end of the season, which was great to see, as we knew the simple lack of game experience would be a weakness for many of the players. The underclassmen really have a lot natural athleticism and dedication to the game, and if they can keep working on that, I see successful seasons in the future for the softball program.”

Leading the way and setting the example for this year’s overall young team was just a pair of seniors who dedicated themselves to the program for their entire high school careers. Multi-year four-sport varsity veteran Regan Wasson brought her decorated high school athletic career to a close with the end of this season, and fellow softball veteran Deana Schlitter battled back from an early-season injury to return later in the year and ultimately lead the final Indian charge in postseason tournament play.

“This year’s seniors fit the saying that ‘it’s about quality, not quantity’,” Coach Eggerichs shared. “They were few in numbers, with only two, but they were mighty in leadership and work ethic. Regan and Deana did whatever they could to improve themselves for the team’s benefit. I know it probably wasn’t the season they hoped for, but their attitude and leadership says much more than any record. They will be greatly missed.”

Wasson led the Indians in runs scored and ranked second in nearly every other offensive category this season behind junior fellow varsity returning letterwinner Audry Fahey. For her efforts, Wasson was the only Indian named to this season’s All-Conference squad, receiving Honorable Mention accolades, and her honorings also carried over to the classroom, as she was awarded Academic All-State recognition this year.

Although limited by her injury this season, Schlitter did post the Tribe’s highest number of put-outs and a team-high .966 fielding percentage from her first base position, in addition to the team’s highest batting average, .273, although in just 22 at-bats. For her efforts this season, Schlitter received nomination for the E. Wayne Cooley “You Can” Award, which is awarded through the Iowa Girls Coaches Association to student-athletes who illustrate the qualities of determination, character and the values of pursuing victory with honor in appreciation of longtime Executive Secretary of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union E. Wayne Cooley.

Fahey paced this year’s consistent season-long contributors with offensive numbers that included a .265 batting average, 22 hits and eight RBI. A pair of eighth graders provided most of the softball Tribe’s extra bases, as Annika Headington blasted the Indians’ lone homerun and Regan Griffith joined both Wasson and Fahey in each legging out one triple.

The Tribe had all four high school grades represented on the pitching mound this season, with junior Lauren Elliott shouldering most of those duties with 116 of the Tribe’s 179 innings on the mound. Sophomore Megan O’Neill and freshman Rebecca Thorstenson each posted around 30 innings on the mound.

This season’s “trial and error” previously mentioned by Coach Eggerichs yielded a total of 13 letterwinners from this year’s squad, providing a much more experienced foundation to build upon for future seasons. Although 11 of those awarded veterans are eligible to return next season, Coach Eggerichs knows it will take much more than just returning experience to improve on this season’s results.

“I would like to see more dedication from the players,” Coach Eggerichs said. “The turn-out for off-season work wasn’t as great as we need it to be if we want to be a more successful team. There are uncontrollable variables, such as many of the girls are multi-sport athletes and the volunteer help is limited, but the girls need to remember that even 10-20 minutes of swinging the bat is more beneficial than nothing. Once the season is underway there is such little time to work on the basics, which is why many of them need to work on getting in as many cuts as possible in the off-season so we can be a team with strong hitters. Lastly, I really want to work with the pitching in the off-season to help make the defense that much stronger.”

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