The streak is over. The burden on the shoulders is gone. On a Sunday, Senior Day, the softball team snapped a 36-game Midwest Conference losing streak with a 2-1 comeback victory against Monmouth at the Softball Complex.
The victory halted a losing streak that dated back to 2010 and also marked Grinnell’s first win against Monmouth since 2006.
“The victory was very sweet,” said head coach Amanda Reckamp. “This team has come a long way. We have seen the bottom, but it was so nice to be the ones celebrating at the end of a huge comeback in the bottom of a seventh inning.”
The Pioneers trailed the Fighting Scots 1-0, unable to record a hit until the sixth inning. The team stranded two runners in the sixth, but took full advantage in the seventh inning.
Robin Campbell ’16 and Jordan Matosky ’16 each hit singles to start the seventh. Lindsay Fujimoto ’15 reached first base safely on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Alissa Hirsh ’16, a basketball player who was playing softball for the first time this weekend to cover for injured players, drove in a run to tie the game thanks to Monmouth shortstop’s error.
“We were all super pumped and proud of all of the contributions everyone made to make the last inning comeback,” Hirsh said. “I was really nervous so Coach Reckamp tried to calm me down by telling me it was just like a free-throw. I guess it worked.”
Then, Aniela Wendt ’14 smacked a game-winning line drive single to drive in the second run, sending the athletes, coaches, and fans into celebration.
“I was extremely happy for Aniela Wendt,” Reckamp said. “She had struggled prior to that at bat; popping a lot of pitches up. But once the ball came off the bat, it was no doubt a line drive up the middle. The players were excited, but I think mostly relieved that we had finally pulled something great off.”
Jennifer Fulton ’15 agreed that the intensity of the game was through the roof.
“I couldn’t watch the batters. We were all cheering in the dugout, hoping we can pull it off. It was perfect when Aniela stepped to the plate and hit a line drive to score a run. I don’t think any of us have been that excited. One of my favorite quotes is from Connie [Lee ’15], who said ‘I’ve never had that much adrenaline even in an organic chemistry test.’”
The Pioneers seemed to carry this momentum into the second game of Sunday’s double-header, when they almost achieved another comeback performance. Down 2-0, Matosky hit a single to drive in Alyssa Bean ’16 home in the seventh inning.
Then Campbell walked and both runners stole a base, inching closer to another thrilling seventh inning finish. Unfortunately, a groundout ended the game at 2-1.
On the previous day, the Pioneers nearly tasted victory against conference-leading Lake Forest. In the second game of a double-header, Bean hit a two-run home run in the first inning to take a 2-1 lead. Bean also pitched a five-hitter, but gave up four more runs over the rest of the game as Grinnell lost 5-2. Grinnell lost 18-0 in the first game, mustering only five hits.
With Tuesday’s double-header finale against Greenville College canceled, the Pioneers have ended the season with a record of 1-28. But perhaps the team’s season was more promising than their record would indicate.
“We have a lot of new players this year. We have some players who haven’t seen a lot of time in sports general,” Fulton said. “That one win told us that yes our work is paying off, yes all of our time going over the basics is helping. It’s just taking its time.”
The team also suffered from injuries this season. In a team of only 13 players, four suffered season-ending injuries, forcing youngsters to play bigger roles earlier than they expected.
“I am encouraged by the fight our new players have had this year,” Reckamp said. “They were put right in a starting role, had to play major positions and got a lot of balls hit at them.”
Reckamp is hopeful that this season’s challenges means a stronger next season is waiting, driven by these new recruits.
“They all improved greatly from the beginning of the season and they will continue to get better each year,” she said. “They will continue to be major contributors to our program.”