SPRINGVILLE After losing a talented senior class in 2018, there weren’t too many outside of Springville who thought the 2019 version of the Oriole softball team could be vastly improved.
Head Coach Laura Riley had high hopes coming into that season, and her faith was rewarded as a young team made their mark going 18-22 overall, 11-13 in a loaded Tri-Rivers Conference and impressively won a regional playoff game they hosted against North Tama.
All-in-all, it was a year most in the area weren’t expecting, and Riley wants her team to surprise once again in 2020, now that there officially will be a season to be played.
“Yes, we will be playing softball in Springville,” said Riley, who like so many around the state of Iowa, welcomed her team to practice for the first time Monday, June 1.
“With our numbers being a little lower this year (14 girls out for the sport), we’re looking at a short six-game JV schedule and about a 14-game varsity schedule. Most of our games will be conference varsity doubleheaders, but we’ll have a few JV/varsity doubleheaders too. There’s going to be a lot of extra responsibilities placed on everyone to make sure we all stay safe and are able to have this season, but I’m so glad for the girls, and especially the seniors. To have their spring and summer seasons taken away, along with everything else they’ve had taken from them due to the pandemic, would have been absolutely tragic. It’s great to get this opportunity to get out and play some softball, and we’re not going to waste it.”
Riley returns letter winners in Libby Moore, Morgan Nachazel, Savannah Nealman, Grace Matus, Molly Stamp and Nia Howard. Ashlynn Zaruba, Kelcie Clothier and Caydenze Schultz also saw action for the team while the program loses the services of graduated seniors Kali Spicer, Mel Nulle, Nichole Kane and Dara Hoskins.
Moore returns as the team’s lone pitcher with varsity experience, but Riley hopes Nealman will be able to step up and log some innings along with Stamp and Zaruba.
“Libby is our only pitcher back with most of the varsity experience, but I’m hoping Savannah can step into a role there and throw quite a few innings for us and not have everything come down to Libby when it comes to eating innings,” Riley said. “Molly could be our No. 3 pitcher and we have a few other options out there too. We could have up to six pitchers if everything works out, but we’ll have to see how that works itself out through the early practices. We did get about 3-4 open gyms in before this pandemic broke out, so that helped and hopefully will make the learning curve for some of our kids a little easier.”
Moore led all Oriole pitchers throwing 105 innings last summer with 71 strikeouts and a 3.33 earned run average while Nealman pitched in one game without giving up a run.
“I’m not 100-percent sure if the girls have been working out on their own during this down time or not,” Riley said. “I think Libby has been throwing, but everything will shake itself out over the next couple of weeks of practice and hopefully we’ll be ready to go come June 15.
Springville opens their 2020 schedule hosting Maquoketa Valley Monday, June 15, the first official day to start before the varsity team hits the road taking on class 1A 10th-ranked and rival Central City Thursday, June 18.
“Things won’t be like they have usually been as far as getting to road games goes this year,” Riley said. “We’ll allow kids to travel to away games with their parents as we can have no more than 13 kids on the bus at the same time due to social distancing rules.
“Kids cannot drive themselves to road games either. We’ll be taking temperatures of each kid before games begin to make sure they’re not running a fever. Anything 100.4-degrees and higher and they’ll be ruled out and need to go home. It’s a strange time right now, but we’re all going to do our best to work through it, keep everyone safe and hopefully have a fun season, because in the end that’s what it’s all about.”