COLUMBUS JUNCTION — Today is the first day high school students have been allowed to officially be together since school was suspended back in March.
Iowa gets to have a softball season while observing many stipulations related to the coronavirus.
One local team that will be on the diamond is Columbus.
“Its unfortunate that we have to battle this virus, but our staff is committed to taking the most precautions possible to keep our team and staff safe and healthy,” Columbus softball head coach Katie Coil said. “I think the hardest thing we will have to deal with is making sure the girls remember the social distancing rule when we are not running drills. They are going to slip up and that’s ok as long as we remember we need to maintain some distance. Lets be honest, they are kids and haven’t seen each other in quite some time so the hugs and high-fives are going to be hard to not do as well as for me as I am a huge high five giver.”
Columbus shares its softball program with WACO.
“When I first found out we were going to have a season I was excited but knew it would come with some tough guidelines that we must follow,” Coil said. “I have been holding weekly Zoom meetings with the girls just checking in with them and trying to gauge what type of activity level they have had. Some have done some drill work at home as far as hitting and pitching and some have done running but it will be some what of a struggle to get into game shape, but we are up for the challenge.”
The Wildcats were 4-20 last season, which was Coil’s first as the head coach.
Coil said one thing that has to happen for her to consider the season a success ws improvement.
“I want the girls to continue to improve and if we are able to get five wins, that will be a huge step in the right direction for our program,” she said.
The Wildcats played through pain last year as they lost a loved individual when Tim Milder died.
Milder, age 55 and the Wildcats softball coach at the time, died at the field.
Milder’s daughter Emma, who pitched and played outfield, will be a junior this season. She was a second team pick in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division.
Other starters from last year who will return are senior left fielder Grace Conwell, junior Michelle Diaz, who played both third and first base, junior Jobie Lekwa, who played second base and outfield and junior catcher Kylee Wheeler.
Other returning letterwinners are junior Lela Fort (shortstop and designated hitter) sophomore Libby White (pitcher/first base, freshman Jocelyn Fulton (pitcher/shortstop/third base), freshman Victoria Howell (third base) and senior Bridgette Smith (first base/utility).
Coil sees a couple of promising newcomers in freshman Emma Humphreys as a pitcher and right fielder and eighth-grader Rhiannon Horn as a catcher.
“We have lots of returning letterwinners and five starters back as a strength of ours,” Coil said. “The conference is going to be tough this season.”