The following is an article I wrote for the Courier Papers related to a local high school softball team. The article ran a few days after the teams’ State Finals appearance. The defending 3A state champs fell 4-1 to Lombard Montini in the IHSA 3A state championship game.
Chemistry key to Panthers success
For the second consecutive season, the Washington Panthers softball team marched back to the IHSA Class 3A State Championship game. Despite a 4-1 loss to Lombard Montini, third-year head coach Stephanie Ramsey has found the key to building a successful program.
“On any team, you are going to have talent, but the thing that is going to set you apart is your team chemistry and that is getting along on and off the field,” Ramsey said. “These girls are the definition of that. You can see it on the field, you also see it when we get out of practice. They’re always having fun with each other, enjoying themselves and being able to do all of those things together.”
Before the season began, Ramsey’s Panthers competed against each other in a fundraiser, with the winning team choosing the bonding activity. Players organized team dinners, rang the Salvation Army bell and played a game of laser tag to strengthen chemistry.
The team bonding off the field also ensures the team gets along well despite the different levels of playing experience and age differences.
“There are no cliques (on the team),” senior pitcher Madi McCoy said. “Some teams have groups of people. We hang out together on and off the field.”
McCoy, who finished the season with a 30-2 record in the circle and hit .525 with 65 RBIs, 18 home runs and 13 doubles, said that everyone on the team is treated the same and age doesn’t matter when it comes to helping the team. The captain also said that this year’s juniors are going to do big things next year, and she is confident the program is in good hands.
Junior Shelby Summer batted .451 with 41 RBIs, four home runs and 11 doubles while playing in all 39 games this season was also a member of last season’s state championship team and will take many of the things the senior leaders have done with her into next season to ensure the Panther softball tradition lives on.
“I definitely think from this past year and this year the leadership has been great by our seniors,” the right fielder said. “They’ve really taken on the team as a whole and we’ve really had great chemistry, done a lot of things outside of softball to make our team bond a lot better.”
Senior outfielder, Kayla Ford was sporting a .308 batting average. with 13 RBIs and 24 runs scored before seeing her role as a leader take a new route when a torn ACL ended her season. Ford began to work with the outfielders during practices and ensures those that aren’t in the game are doing all they can to support each other.
“I just try and keep the dugout intense and make sure that they are in it every pitch and cheering everyone on,” she said.
The Panther seniors put up a 66-12 record in two seasons of varsity softball with a 32-2 record in their final year. The seniors will continue their college careers fairly close to home, Ford and McCoy will attend NJCAA Division II Illinois Central College in the Fall, Addie Baele will attend NJCAA Div. I Lake Land Community College in Mattoon and Morgan Osborn will attend Eureka.