I know I’ve been at this sports writing thing for quite a few years now, 25 to be exact, but watching the Anamosa softball teams over the past couple of summers has sure brought back a lot of memories for me of the amazing 1995-96 Raider teams who made back-to-back state tournament appearances.
I was fresh and new to the newspaper scene back then, as the ’95 team was my first covering the Anamosa softball program as a Journal-Eureka sports correspondent with then sports editor Dan Digmann.
That ’95 team set the stage for the memorable ’96 run that saw the Raiders reach the class 2A state championship game against Carlisle.
But I digress.
The ’95 team was led by senior outfielders Rachel Robertson, Andrea Delagardelle and Tammy Helle as well as senior shortstop Amy Wilken. Freshman pitcher Cara Graver, who burst onto the state scene, turned in a memorable campaign posting a 34-9 overall record walking a mere 21 batters in 269 innings of work.
The Raiders defeated eighth-ranked Benton Community 6-2 in the regional championship game that summer, and after winning their first game (upset 10th ranked Webster City, 1-0) in the program’s first-ever trip to Fort Dodge, dropped their final two (5-2 against Clarke and 4-1 against Independence) to place fourth overall in class 2A.
Andrea and her sister Kim Delagardelle were both named to the All-Tournament team in ’95, and at the team’s rally once returning home, Head Coach Chuck Smith proved prophetic.
“As a coach, I’ve waited 22 years to make it to the state tournament,” he said at the rally in the Raiders’ honor on Main Street as the team finished with a 37-13 overall record.
“We’d like to do it again next year.”
I’m not sure even Coach Smith knew what was to come in ’96.
The run back to the state tournament was incredible. The run at the state tournament to reach the championship game was incredible. There was very little about that ’96 campaign that wasn’t, you guessed it, incredible.
Some of the names were the same from ’95. Graver, Kim Delagardelle, Andrea Eilertson, Mary Ann Frasher and Rachael Bauer. But some others were new. Rose Galer, Christy Wollum, Amy Weiler, Karen Platner and Shelly Sleep. The group propelled the program to a 47-5 overall record, as well as a Big Bend Conference championship.
While those teams won their back-to-back regional championship game appearances to make it to the state level, the last two seasons have seen heartbreak coming up just short in regional title tilts against West Liberty and Mount Vernon in back-to-back summers.
But I don’t think this current group of Raiders are done with their long post-season runs. A third straight regional championship appearance is not out of the realm of possibility in 2021 (something that has never happened in school history), and I’m sure the Anamosa girls returning are hungry and will do what it takes to get over that one last hump.
Whatever happens next summer, I know it’s going to be fun to watch. And more memories are going to be made.