The end of the 2017 season showed the Nevada softball program is on the verge of turning the corner.

The Cubs took plenty of lumps during the season, finishing 4-21 overall and 1-14 in the Heart of Iowa Conference. But under first-year coach John Bass, Nevada managed to earn its first postseason victory since 2002 with a young team that had no seniors.

“I feel like we had a successful season overall,” Bass said. “Although the wins and losses don’t show it, the girls made huge signs of improvement every week throughout the season.”

Nevada split its first four games, then struggled to get into the win column the rest of the regular season.

The Cubs opened with losses to Collins-Maxwell-Baxter and North Polk and defeated Gilbert by a 6-3 score for its only HOIC victory. On May 30, the Cubs took down non-conference rival Colo-Nesco, 3-2, at McCallsburg.

Nevada suffered losses to South Hamilton, Greene County, Roland-Story, Hampton-Dumont, Prairie City-Monroe and Saydel, and then fell to CMB and North Polk to begin the second half of HOIC play.

“The league and schedule that we play in was especially challenging this year,” Bass said. “Having so many inexperienced players being forced to play at the varsity level, and due to the game schedule, we didn’t have the practice time we would have liked to have. However, I feel like our team stepped up to this challenge.”

At the Kiwanis Invitational on June 15 and 17 in Roland, the Cubs went down against eventual 4A state runner-up Ballard, ranked 4A power Boone and West Branch. They also earned their second victory over Colo-Nesco with a 5-1 victory over the Royals.

Gilbert topped Nevada on June 16. The Cubs also went down in defeat on the road versus Grand View Christian and eventual 3A state qualifier West Marshall in their first games after the Kiwanis Invite.

Roland-Story, Greene County, PCM and Saydel defeated Nevada to close out the regular season. But despite the losses, the Cubs had been making small steps in the right direction over the last two weeks of the season, and it showed on the field in the 4A regional quarterfinals against Harlan.

Nevada traveled to Harlan on July 6 and earned their long-awaited postseason win by stunning the Cyclones, 3-2, in eight innings.

“The playoff win was obviously one of our biggest highlights of the year,” Bass said. “One of the biggest off-the-field highlights is how the girls came together as a team. They not only had amazing attitudes but grew as teammates through team bonding moments, none bigger than the bus ride to Harlan, the pregame picnic and having fun at the local park prior to the game. It was amazing to watch how different girls stepped up to be leaders in all different situations, both on and off the field.”

The season came to a close with an 18-0 loss to Ballard in the 4A regional semifinals at Huxley on July 8.

“My overall outlook on the season is that it was very successful,” Bass said. “There was continuous growth week to week in all areas.”

“Whether it was cheering from the dugout, being there to pick a teammate up, making plays on the field or just overall attitude in practice and in games — as well as improving on their overall skills — every player contributed to the success of our season,” Bass said. “I couldn’t be more proud of all of the girls in our program.”

The Cub coach said the players, his assistant coaches and the community made him feel right at home this season as Bass took the first step toward turning around the long-time struggling program.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to this journey,” Bass said. “I also need to mention how blessed I’ve been with my assistant coaches — Corey Barloon and Shawn Crain. Their hard work all season, in so many ways, was invaluable to our success.”

As a team, Nevada scored 64 runs and hit .238 with a .308 on-base percentage, .289 slugging average, 23 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 46 steals. The Cub pitching staff gave up 225 runs with a 6.86 earned-run average, 52 strikeouts and 62 walks in 150 innings and in the field, Nevada had 409 putouts, 76 assists and 61 errors.

Junior Grace Francis, sophomore Riley Mailey and eighth-graders Addi Vorm, Katie Sullivan, Ellie Gray and Gracie Barloon all batted over .250 for Nevada during the season.

Francis hit at outstanding .453 clip with a .506 OBP, .627 SA, 10 doubles, one home run, 12 runs and 18 RBI. Playing multiple positions in the field, she totaled 69 putouts and 11 assists.

Mailey posted a .272 batting average with a .330 OBP, seven walks, three doubles, eight runs and six RBI. She also played more than one position in the field, finishing in the outfield and recording 36 putouts, 11 assists and one runner thrown out from behind the plate.

Vorm hit .284 with a .351 SA, five doubles, five runs and nine RBI. Defensively, Vorm compiled 62 putouts and 17 assists.

Sullivan produced a .282 batting average, .364 OBP, one double, two runs and three RBI. She ended the season at catcher and threw out two base runners and had 29 putouts.

Gray delivered a .262 batting average and .338 OBP with five runs and two RBI. At second base, she compiled 21 putouts and one assist.

Barloon finished with a .294 batting average and .351 OBP with 10 hits and three RBI. Playing mostly at catcher, Barloon ended up with 29 putouts.

Junior Mackenzie Garrett, eighth-grader Sydney Mosinski and sophomores Maddy Farmer, Libby Burlage and Emma Griffin all had over 30 at-bats for Nevada.

Garrett recorded a .235 OBP with one home run and eight RBI. Defensively at pitcher, Garrett had 16 assists, 15 putouts and only two errors.

Mosinski came through with a .274 OBP, one double, one home run, nine runs and three RBI. In the field, she made 45 putouts and two assists.

Farmer reached base at a .224-percent clip with 10 steals, one double, five runs and four RBI. In the outfield, Farmer tallied five putouts.

Burlage had a .189 OBP with one double, one triple, four runs and two RBI. At third base, she made 24 putouts and two assists.

Griffin hit .235 with a .350 OBP, one double and two runs. Playing primarily at first base, she recorded 58 putouts and three assists.

Freshman Samara Sharp and sophomores Ryanne Barker and Kaitlynn Cook also saw double-digit at-bats for Nevada during the season.

Sharp picked up one hit, two walks and two runs; Barker delivered one hit, one walk and two RBI and Cook chipped in one hit. Sharp also made seven putouts and one assist, Barker tallied six putouts and Cook came through with nine putouts and two assists.

Sophomore Caitlyn Sharp was the top courtesy runner for Nevada. She led the Cubs with 20 steals in 23 attempts and also scored nine runs.

Garrett and eighth-grader Madi McGaffin handled the the pitching duties for Nevada.

Garrett was 4-14 with a 6.36 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 27 walks in 113 ⅓ innings. McGaffin finished 0-6 with a 7.92 ERA and nine strikeouts in 35 ⅓ innings.

Freshman Megan Wessels also threw 1 ⅓ innings and had a 5.25 ERA with one strikeout.

Nevada now turns to 2018. With everyone coming back, the Cubs figure to be much stronger next season.

“I’m looking forward to next season,” Bass said. “With no seniors this year, it allowed a lot of girls to get valuable varsity experience.”

“We are all excited to have the off-season to work towards next season,” Bass said. “These girls are driven and have great attitudes; they want to win and change the culture of our program. We expect big things next year for our program, and thank the families and the community for their continued support.”