ANAMOSA - There was no question that if there was actually going to be an Anamosa softball season, the Raider girls were going to do something to honor senior teammate Maggie McQuillen, who has been making a remarkable recovery following a horrific car accident March 19, that left her fighting for her very life.
The only question that remained would there be a season to honor McQuillen with?
That question was answered Wednesday, May 20, when Governor Kim Reynolds made the announcement that there would indeed be high school summer sports in the state of Iowa.
“Honestly, with the virus, with everything that’s been taken away from us and the accident Maggie was in, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to play softball anymore if Maggie couldn’t be there with us,” said Raider senior Ellie Tallman, who like so many in this community was shocked and saddened by the incident.
“Of course, I’d still play if we had a season, but without Maggie it just wasn’t going to be the same. But to see the way she’s been fighting, working her butt off through rehab and doing things no one thought she could do right after the accident, well, I decided I could come back too, and I’d work my butt off just like Maggie.”
Senior pitcher Kalli Minger has McQuillen foremost in her thoughts as well as she gets ready to return to the pitchers’ circle this summer.
“We’ve been together with Maggie for 13 years, and even if she can’t play with us this season, we’ll be out there fighting for her,” Minger said. “We’ve watched as Maggie fights for her life in the hospital, and the least we can do is go out and fight for her on the softball diamond this summer.
“But we’re not just playing for Maggie, we’re playing for ourselves and our community, too. I think we have a chance at having another very special season. It’s going to be tougher without Maggie out there with us, but to know that we now actually get a chance to play, it’s going to be great no matter what.”
For the seniors (Tallman, Minger, McQuillen and Autumn Kirby), having that one last go-around was especially important as well.
“I kept thinking that maybe last season might be my last high school softball season, and that’s not how I wanted to go out,” Tallman said. “There’s a mind-set that you have knowing that this is the end, and we didn’t get that last year. Last year was for Jessie Frasher and Alexa Jess, they were our seniors. I was hoping to be able to experience my senior season and all the special moments that go with that, and now I get that chance, and I can’t wait.”
Anamosa softball coach Brad Holub is also ecstatic to have a season, especially considering all the negative things that have happened over the past few months.
“It may not be the kind of season we were hoping for before the virus turned the world upside down, but at this point we’ll take anything,” he said. “No graduation, Maggie’s accident, I’m hoping by just having a season this summer that we can come out of this thinking positive thoughts and not always the negative, which has been what most of us have been forced to deal with for months now.”
The Raiders are coming off a 2019 campaign that saw the program reach the regional championship round (just a win away from the state tournament) for the first time since 1996, and Holub thinks his 2020 group could be pretty special too.
“We’ve got one heck of a nucleus,” he said. “Losing Maggie is going to hurt, obviously. She is one amazing teammate, athlete and competitor. We had spring ball taken away too, but I think we can come back from all of that and have a great season. That’s at least what we’re going to try for anyway, but a lot of our success will come down to whether the girls been have been throwing and hitting on their own during this time off? We’ll find that out pretty quickly.”
Minger, one of the top pitchers in the state, returns as well as Tallman, one of the best all-around players in Iowa. Both have committed to play collegiately, and both want to make one last splash at the high school level.
“I’m excited that I get a chance to be a senior leader on this team,” Tallman said. “I want to lead by example and hopefully we can have a good run, and at the very least be competitive this season.”
Tallman would also like to hit a home run this summer, something she has yet to accomplish at the varsity level after hitting eight during her days at the club level.
“It’s not like I’m going to be going to the plate swinging for a home run every time up,” she said. “I’d just like to see at least one fly over the fence before I’m done here at Anamosa.”
Minger has been working tirelessly on her game during the time off and feels she’s ready for the challenges ahead.
“Between working two jobs, I’ve been going down to the field 2-3 times a week and throwing to my dad or to Jessie (Frasher) just to keep in shape and be ready if we were allowed to play,” Minger said. “I think anything is possible for this team this year. It just depends on how hard everyone else has been working on their games, but whatever happens I’m just happy that we at least have this chance to play, because I wasn’t sure we were going to get it.”