The eight seniors on the Highland softball team have accounted for lots over the past half-decade.
Lots of hits. Lots of runs. Lots of wins.
The current group of Huskies seniors have made success as synonymous with summer softball in Riverside as stolen bases or sunshine.
That wasn’t always the case for this class, which began playing together in T-ball.
In fact, the first under-12 team the group put together didn’t do much winning at all.
“The first year, we struggled. We definitely didn’t win too many games,” senior catcher Courtnee Hahn said, laughing. “We were young at the time. Over the years, we got better.”
The core players on that U-12 team were only 10 or 11 years old when they took their lumps.
They haven’t lost much since.
Highland has won 130 games with the current group of seniors on the roster over the last five seasons, including an 86-12 the past three years.
Led by its eight seniors, Highland takes a 22-5 record and No. 3 ranking into Wednesday’s Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinal matchup with North Cedar.
“They’ve been a part of the softball community since eighth grade. It’s been a crazy run,” Highland coach Carrie Wieland said. “They all stayed out, they stayed together and them being able to stay together and work together and still remain friends is great. They’ve been a great group.”
From its humble beginning in U-12 play, the current group of seniors has helped Highland become one of the top 2A programs in the state. Last season, Highland returned to the state tournament for the third time in program history and its first since 2008.
This year, the Huskies are seeking the first state title since Highland won its only state softball crown in its first appearance at state in 2007.
“I think watching the 2007 team, that is what really pushed us. We wanted to be role models for younger people but we also wanted to be really, really good like them and make it to the state tournament,” senior shortstop Bridget Murphy said. “I remember before the 2007 team went to state, we sent them off to state and we were just little kids. We thought the world of them.”
The group of Murphy, Hahn, Bailey Walsh, Morgan Craig, Katie Chalupa, Brooke Kreiss, Katie Springer and Taylor Edwards has mostly been together since T-ball days in Riverside.
“Playing together with everybody for so long, you just realize that these are your teammates,” Chalupa said. “These are your best friends.”
An all-stater last year who boasts a 20-4 record and 1.09 ERA this season, Springer took on the pitching duties early.
“I always loved pitching. That’s always what I wanted to do,” Springer said. “I still love it.”
The rest of the group has constantly switched positions.
At nearly every tournament, each player would play at a different spot to create a versatile group of athletes.
“All of us have played all around the field,” Walsh said. “We would switch it up every game to get everyone well-rounded.”
Over the past few seasons, the senior class has gotten help from other groups.
This year, the Huskies’ top two hitters are sophomore Kelsey Hora (.529 batting average) and junior Cheyanne Adamson (.419).
The next six highest averages for the Huskies belong to seniors.
“We’ve basically took that group and filled in around it,” Wieland said. “We’ve just filled in spots as we lose people, and every player in that group has stepped up and done their job.”
Chalupa is batting .338, Walsh is tied for the team lead with 22 RBI and Murphy has a team-best 14 sacrifices and a .284 average.
Hahn has scored 30 runs with a .339 average. Craig and Kreiss have combined for 21 runs and 21 RBI.
“What is really nice for me is since every time we get an injury or someone is having a bad game, we always know that there is someone that can come in and step up,” Kreiss said. “It helps to always have that backup.”
With the postseason approaching, the end for the seniors’ time together is near. The Huskies are intent on making it a fitting and memorable conclusion.
“I think we all just know that we want to go out with a bang and finish with a bang,” Hahn said. “We want to get back to state, we want to keep winning. We don’t really want to think about our season ending.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.