The Colo-Nesco softball team enjoyed another successful run through the Iowa Star Conference in 2017.

The Royals dropped slightly overall from last year’s record, going 15-17 this summer after a 16-16 showing in 2016. But Colo-Nesco improved its ISC mark from 12-6 last year to 13-5, placing second to a Clarksville squad that went undefeated in conference play.

The runner-up placing in the ISC was Colo-Nesco’s best showing in conference play since 1996.

“Of our 17 losses, seven were to ranked opponents,” Colo-Nesco head softball coach Candace Sutton said. “This only makes our team better at the end of the season and the girls took each challenge in stride. Defensively, we have come a long way in a year. We play fundamental softball and (we) improved every day. Every player on the roster contributed in a positive way on this season.”

Colo-Nesco opened the season with close 7-6 and 5-3 losses to North Tama and Grand View Christian respectively. The Royals then whipped GMG, 15-7, and knocked off ISC third-place finisher Don Bosco by a 5-3 score.

Non-conference rival Nevada edged Colo-Nesco, 3-2, on May 30. The Royals swept Riceville in a May 31 doubleheader, 8-2 and 12-0.

Clarksville and Janesville toppled Colo-Nesco to start off June. The Royals then took down Dunkerton, 10-0, and fell to top-10 Class 3A school West Marshall in in a 14-1 affair.

The Royals followed up the West Marshall game with a five-game winning streak from June 7-14. Colo-Nesco defeated CAL (9-0), Tripoli (13-1), North Tama (14-5), South Hardin (9-7) and GMG (10-0).

From June 15-17, Colo-Nesco went cold, losing four games at the Kiwanis Invitational and also suffering a conference loss to Don Bosco. The Royals were defeated by Mount Vernon (12-0), Gilbert (11-0), Roland-Story (4-3) and Nevada (5-1) at Roland and Don Bosco dealt them a 13-3 setback.

Clarksville handled Colo-Nesco, 13-1, on June 19. The Royals were dealt a 14-4 setback by South Hamilton the following day.

Colo-Nesco snapped its seven-game losing streak with an 8-7 triumph on June 23. Montezuma and top-five 2A power Collins-Maxwell-Baxter defeated the Royals at the Collins Days Tournament in Collins June 24 by respective scores of 7-1 and 13-2.

Following the Collins Days Tournament, Colo-Nesco regrouped to finish the season strong. The Royals were victorious in four of their final six games.

The Royals topped Dunkerton by an 8-3 score on June 26 and two days later, blanked CAL, 12-0. BCLUW overpowered the Royals by a 17-1 score on June 29, but Colo-Nesco came back to end the regular season with an 11-1 drubbing of Tripoli.

On July 3, Colo-Nesco opened 1A regional play by hammering GMG, 20-0. Two days later, the Royals’ season came to a close with a 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Lynnville-Sully.

“The group of girls came together played as a team and really bought into the process of getting better every day,” Sutton said. “With not very many days off with our schedule, the girls staying positive and making things happen was the most enjoyable part of the season. I have enjoyed watching the girls grow into the players they have become — a lot of hard work has been put in to get to where we ended the season.”

Sutton said the team had to overcome depth issues that were magnified by injuries and illness during the season.

“The girls really had to branch out of their comfort zones and play positions they may not be accustomed to,” Sutton said. “We play a very tough non-conference schedule, but the girls were able to refocus after each game and play one game at the time.”

It helped to get junior Mackenna Ruffcorn back. Ruffcorn had to sit out her sophomore season with an ACL injury.

The biggest wins of the season, according to Sutton, were the victories over Janesville and South Hardin, both of which were comeback wins in games that went extra innings. The Royal coach also pointed out the victory over Don Bosco as being a high point of the season.

As a team, the Royals scored 200 runs and gave up 196 on the season.

On offense, Colo-Nesco hit .289 with a .376 on-base percentage and .395 slugging average. The Royals totaled 52 doubles, six triples, seven home runs and 21 steals in 23 attempts.

The Colo-Nesco pitching staff posted an earned-run average of 4.97 with 123 strikeouts and 90 walks in 186 innings. In the field, the Royals had a .919 fielding average, with 554 putouts, 245 assists and 70 errors in 869 chances.

Individually, Colo-Nesco had four hitters bat over .300 — freshman Rylee Purvis, senior Grace Stalzer, Ruffcorn and junior Chelsea Henze.

Purvis hit .383 with a .474 OBP, .568 SA, four doubles, one triple, three home runs and one steal. She walked 14 times, scored 33 runs and drove in 20.

Playing in the infield, a little behind the plate and on the mound, Purvis made 49 assists and 37 putouts during the season.

Stalzer hit .333 with a .453 OBP, .425 SA, eight doubles and two steals. She scored 33 times and drove in 13 runs and made 46 putouts, 36 assists and only three errors in the field.

Ruffcorn posted a .344 batting average, .444 OBP and .544 SA. She connected for a Royal-record 13 doubles, one triple and one home run, and tallied 26 runs and 23 RBI.

Playing on the mound and in the infield defensively, Ruffcorn made 80 assists and 33 putouts with seven errors.

Henze registered a .326 batting average with a .413 OBP and .489 slugging average and she recorded eight doubles, two triples and one home run. She drove in a school-record 36 runs and also scored 18 times.

Henze was outstanding defensively at catcher. Behind the plate, she threw out an impressive 15 runners in 30 attempts and only had two errors all season.

Shortstop/pitcher Kassie Robinson was another valuable senior contributor. She hit .278 with a .333 OBP and .361 slugging average and she delivered six doubles, one triple, five steals, 13 runs and 18 RBI.

In the field Robinson finished with 35 assists and 33 putouts.

Freshman Megan Carlson hit .302 with one double, four runs and two RBI. She made 36 putouts and three assists in the field.

Lauryn Hill hit .286 with 11 runs, five steals, two doubles and four RBI in 10 games before opting on season-ending surgery for a hip injury. Hill totaled eight putouts and one assist in the field.

Junior first baseman Molly Barten and sophomore second baseman Claire Skinner were regular varsity contributors for most of the season.

Barten had a .266 OBP with one triple, six runs and five RBI. She made 163 putouts at first.

Skinner registered a .209 OBP with 14 runs, six RBI, two steals and one double. In the field, she ended up with 23 putouts and 10 assists.

Eighth-grader MacKenzie Niemeyer came on late in the season for the Royals. Niemeyer hit .231 with a .348 OBP, 15 runs, three doubles and two RBI, and she delivered 21 putouts and two assists in the field.

Junior Rylie Reischauer scored 16 runs and stole four bases as the team’s top courtesy runner. Eighth-grader Ayvarie Bappe hit .333 with a .429 OBP and .500 slugging average and she had one double, two RBI and four runs in nine games.

Ruffcorn, Robinson and Purvis split the pitching duties, with Carlson also getting one start.

Ruffcorn went 7-11 with a 4.52 ERA, 73 strikeouts and 46 walks in 97 ⅔ innings. Robinson finished 4-2 with a 6.70 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 32 walks in 47 innings and Purvis wound up 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38 ⅓ innings.

Carlson finished 0-1 with one walk in three innings.

Next season, Colo-Nesco must deal with the losses of two long-time varsity contributors in Robinson and Stalzer.

“Grace Stalzer and Kassie Robinson have been two great leaders the past two seasons,” Sutton said. “Both have use their talents in multiple positions and did everything they could to better the team. Each played three different positions throughout this season. You ask players to leave a program better then they found in; these two have done exactly that. We have improved every year over the last five years and have had our highest conference finish since joining the ISC.”

But that still leaves the Royals with the bulk of their talent returning, including two battle-tested pitchers.

“Next season we return nine starters and several other girls with a lot of varsity experience,” Sutton said. “I look forward to next season and expect the girls to take our successes from this year and carry them into next season.”

“Returning Mackenna Ruffcorn and Rylee Purvis to the mound with Chelsea Henze behind the plate — this is a very solid battery to return,” Sutton said. “We will also return four of our five top hitters. All the pieces will be there for us to compete in the Iowa Star Conference, as well as compete in our tough non-conference schedule.”