Sports / The Prairie Fire / May 6, 2010

Softball team drops final two on Senior Day

The Prairie Fire softball team finished their season this past Saturday with two home losses on Senior Day, which put their overall record at 7-25 and their Midwest Conference (MWC) record at 1-12, an improvement from last years 3-29 overall record and 0-13 MWC mark.

“We have definitely improved a lot. We did a lot better and I’m really proud of us as a team,” said sophomore pitcher/first baseman Bri Collishaw. “Some games we were awesome offensively, and we could not hit a fastball to save our lives. Other games our bats were on fire, but we were making errors in the field. We just need to bring it all together and hopefully things will start clicking.”

This season’s team did not click at times, but they always took the same approach into their games. Next year’s approach will not be any different.

“It is still going to be an aggressive approach,” said first-year head coach Ashley Sims. “We want to be in control. We don’t want to be waiting for something to happen whether it is at the plate, in the field or base running, we are going to be the aggressor.”

Throughout this season, Sims saw things she wants to spend more time on next year and base running is one of them.

“We spent a lot of time on it, but it is something we will touch on more,” she said. “It is a little part of the game that makes a difference.”

Knox had only two players step inside the chalked circle this season — senior Cory Bieber and Collishaw — and next year they will have a few more, which will make a difference as well.

“Right now we have three pitchers coming in and we are not even done with our recruiting class yet,” Sims said. “We are hoping to have more freedom to do some things with our pitching personnel that we have not been able to do the past couple of years here. We are looking to definitely grow. If you look at the competitive teams in our conference, they have a good set of four pitchers or so that they can rotate through and use for certain things so that is definitely something that we are going to push and try to do.”

Next year, there should also be a few more local players on the team. Currently, sophomore Amanda Wollrab, a catcher from Knoxville, Ill., is the only local talent on the roster.

“We are trying to get in some local talent — some kids that are strong,” Sims said. “I have made an effort to bringing in local kids with strong softball backgrounds that can help us and fit well into our system. The biggest thing is bringing in kids from good programs who are also good people.”

Senior Day

Senior year is always a time for reflection. It is a time for great joy but also some sadness as students consider what they have accomplished, in and out of the classroom but also what will be missed.

June 5, 2010 marks the day that the Knox College class of 2010 will end its journey as students of this fine institution, but this past Saturday marked the end of the softball careers for seniors — Cheyenne Cortez, Cassie Milleville, Regina Cloyd and Bieber.

It too was a day of excitement and gloom. Excitement, that should they decide, the seniors will never have to run another sprint or spend another hour at batting practice. But sadness too, that they indeed would never again put on the purple and the gold and step into the batters box for Knox again.

Knox’s senior softball players have now shared in the fate of the many student-athletes who have played their last game, wrestled their last match or swam their last meet. But it is a fate that in fact ties us all together. We all are doing our last something this year, whether we are athletes or not.

The Fire faced a fellow MWC South Division team to close out the season, Illinois College. The doubleheader that was rescheduled for this past Saturday after having been rained out on Sunday, April 25 drew a good crowd. Many of the fans ran back and forth between the softball games and baseball games that were going on simultaneously at Blodgett Field.

The softball field was ornamented in great décor with purple and gold streamers covering the fence in front of the home team dugout and a few gold and purple balloons hung inside of the dugout. Two yellow balloons and a purple balloon attached to the top of the left field foul pole and a yellow balloon and purple balloon attached to the top of the right field foul pole blew in the wind. Both poles were also wrapped in purple and gold streamers. The uniform numbers of the seniors — made out of purple and gold streamers — were embedded in the outfield fence.

Knox started off their doubleheader versus the Lady Blues slow but the frenzy of it being the last game of the season soon ignited them.

It was a slow start in game one. There were some great defensive plays by the Fire though. Bieber made an incredible grab after a batter hit her pitch right back in her direction, and Cloyd made some nice grabs out in left field as well. Unfortunately, Knox fell 12-1.

Game two however was indeed a game through the fifth inning. In fact, the Fire led 3-2 entering the top of the sixth. The defense had played incredibly well and there was some powerful swinging by sophomore Stephanie Sorenson and Collishaw.

When all seemed hopeful IC turned on their bats and things turned in an instant. In the top of the sixth the Lady Blues managed to load the bases and due to an error by the Fire, score two runs batted in by Sydni Szafransk. Then in the same inning Sara Reichart hit and grand slam. This took the score to 8-3. The Fire would give up two more runs in this hard fought game and the final score was 10-3.

“Two tough games. Illinois College’s record doesn’t really portray their competitiveness and their talent as a team. They are a pretty good team,” Sims said. “I thought the first pitcher did a really good job and we didn’t come out particularly strong. We came out in game two hard, and we had a lot of good things going for us. We just couldn’t quite hold on to the end.”

Freshman third baseman Brittany Wisniewski had to sit out the games due to a concussion, but the team adjusted and fellow freshman Jill Krippel did a nice job filling in.

Sims’ squad adjusted to the loss of the freshman phenom, but the team’s defense was a little shaky, committing nine errors in the drizzly doubleheader.

Matthew Wheaton

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