The Columbia softball team is coming off a very successful 2013 campaign, and many of the key ingredients are still in place to take the program to new heights.
The finished last season with a 30-6 mark, winning the regional title and advancing to the sectional championship before losing to Alton Marquette, who went on to take third at state.
Columbia lost six girls from last year’s team, five of which were varsity starters all four years: Alexis Royer, Kaitlin Grohman, Savannah Wittenbrink, Laura Roessler, Allie Eckert and Katie Dougherty.
“The whole group was a big part of the success and the building of the program,” head coach Rhonda Major said. “They will be missed, but we have a good, solid returning team.”
A key returning player is senior Brianna Weilbacher, who has already signed to play college ball at Iowa State. She was 17-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 234 strikeouts in 133.7 innings pitched in 2013.
Juniors Taryn Pena (.593 average, 9 homeruns), Kaylee Bastien (.437, 6 stolen bases), Rachel Garcia (.439) and Kaitlyn Touchette are also back, as is sophomore Kalli Farmer (.333).
The Eagles will be looking to some talented up-and-coming underclassmen to step in this year and fill in the void left from the departing seniors, Major said.
Some of the games Columbia is looking forward to this season include local matchups with Waterloo and Dupo and also the Triad Tournament and Pinckneyville Tournament, which they have won the last three years.
“I am very pleased with what I have seen so far in practice,” Major said. “I am very confident we will have a good season with this group of girls.”
Major said she is a big proponent of her players putting in the necessary work to improve day by day.
“All I ask is that the team gives 110 percent each game and tries its best and the outcome will be good,” she said. “Hard work pays off.”
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