On March 29, the IVCC softball team’s season began with a doubleheader in windy and cold conditions against a team that had already played.
It didn’t go well for the Eagles.
IVCC lost 23-6 and 18-10 to Waubonsee Valley.
“Our first game was in just terrible conditions,” IVCC coach Cory Tomasson said. “It was windy and cold and I don’t think we were ready to play. It was our first game and not the other team’s. It was not real conducive for softball. That set the tone for the first few games because we got down mentally.”
The poor start snowballed for the Eagles as they only won one of their first 12 games.
“It was tough,” La Salle-Peru graduate and IVCC freshman Brook Shirley said. “I felt like starting the season we were very shy and timid with each other because we all came from different schools.”
After games the Eagles would meet to try to figure out what was going wrong and Shirley said the players began doing team bonding activities in hopes of turning their play around.
On April 13, the Eagles lost both games of a doubleheader at home then went to the gym for their post-game meeting.
Finally, they figured it out.
“We kept talking, and honestly we had one team meeting where something just clicked,” Tomasson said. “We sat down as a team, then I left and they started talking. They said, ‘We figured it out.’ ”
After that, the Eagles rattled off seven consecutive win and have won eight of their last 10 games.
“(At the meeting), we went over how we were doing, how the defense was and what the offensive stats were,” said Shirley, who is one of six L-P graduates on the roster along with Kaitlyn Bauer, Gianna Neill, Aubrie Roda, Josie Walter and Maddy Rose. “(Tomasson) gave us stats of other teams he’s had and it really put us into gear to see how much other teams were successful because of how they worked together so well. It made us wake up and realize things were possible. We have a great team. A lot of us have talent. We just have to put it together and made it work.”
A big factor to the turnaround was IVCC’s cleaning up its defense.
Early on in the season, the Eagles were averaging seven errors per game, Tomasson said.
“We had some players not in positions they would normally play and we hadn’t had games together. We didn’t have a fall season to get to know each other and where people can play and learn to trust each other. There was somewhat of a learning curve,” Tomasson said. “We still make a couple errors per game, but before we were making errors and giving the other team eight runs per game. We’d make two or three errors in an inning or two errors on a play. We have cleaned it up. We’re still making some college level errors, but they’re mostly on hard hit balls and not mental mistakes like before.”
The Eagles also started to heat up offensively.
Early in the season, IVCC had two players hitting above .400 and two above .300 and the rest of the lineup was hitting under .300.
Now, the Eagles have seven players over .300 with Shirley leading the way at .494 followed by Ally Gullette (.452) and Kaitlyn Bauer (.413).
IVCC (9-13) wrap up the regular season this week and learn its postseason seed on Sunday.
The tournament starts with a three-game series at the higher seed with the winners advancing to the region final four.
“Right now, we’re focused on that (region) tournament,” Tomasson said. “Traditionally, we do pretty well at that tournament. We want to get to (the final four) first of all. That’s our first goal. We play the two out of three and hopefully we’ll be hosting. Whoever wins goes to Highland and we expect our team to be there. We have the ability and the talent to get there. It’s just whether or not we are all clicking on the same cylinder at that point.”