Nevada cut loss total down by nine from 2012

The Nevada softball team took a small step forward in 2013 as the Cubs suffered nine fewer losses than last year’s team.

Nevada went 3-18 overall and 2-16 in the Heart of Iowa Conference this season under first-year coach Tonya Van Dam. Last season the Cubs finished 3-27 overall and 1-15 in the HOIC.

Van Dam entered the season facing numerous challenges. The Nevada softball program has struggled for several years, but the rookie Cub coach was determined to install a positive attitude and lay the foundation for future success.

"The number of girls going out for softball has always been low, and trying to get athletes to give part of their summer for this sport is difficult," Van Dam said. "But the team learned why they love the game of softball, to have faith in what they could do on the field and how to positively encourage their teammates. They learned about dedication, heart and mental toughness and another very important lesson - how a team can positively affect their community and be an inspiration."

Nevada started off the season 0-6 with losses to Prairie City-Monroe, South Hamilton, North Polk, Greene County, Roland-Story and Gilbert. But the Gilbert game on June 12 spurred some confidence in the team as the Cubs were in it right until the end before falling by a 1-0 score in eight innings.

Immediately following the Gilbert game, Nevada took part in the Kiwanis Invitational in Roland on June 13. The Cubs carried over the momentum from the close loss versus the Tigers in their first Kiwanis game against Colo-Nesco, whipping the Royals by a 13-2 score for their first victory.

Boone defeated Nevada in its other Kiwanis game and the Cubs also suffered a home loss to PCM on June 14. But on June 17 they were back on the winning track, earning their first HOIC victory with a 5-2 win at South Hamilton.

The victory over South Hamilton showed Nevada had made progress during the season. The Cubs avenged a 6-0 home loss to the Hawks they suffered in the second game of the season.

Colfax-Mingo swept Nevada in a doubleheader on June 19, but the Cubs didn’t stay down long. They came back to win a 7-6 thriller at home over Collins-Maxwell-Baxter on June 21, giving them their first home win.

The final stretch was a little rough for Nevada as the Cubs ended the season with eight consecutive losses. But Nevada was competitive in setbacks against CMB, Gilbert and Roland-Story.

Nevada lost its rematch with CMB by a 5-3 score in Collins. The Cubs suffered a 9-6 home loss to Gilbert on senior night and they ended the regular season by losing a 9-7 battle with Roland-Story – a team that had knocked off the Cubs by 14 runs in the first meeting between the two teams.

The Cubs ran into a strong PCM team in the opening round of Class 3A regional play in Monroe. They were handed an 11-1 loss as their season came to a close.

"One huge highlight is definitely our win against South Hamilton in Jewell, as the girls were mentally in it the entire game and we just made outstanding decisions on the field," Van Dam said. "Another highlight has to be our home game against CMB. We came out that first inning and literally exploded the bats, and to hold onto that game and win at home was such a super-sweet momentum for the girls, coaching staff, parents and fans."

Van Dam also considered the eight-inning fight against Gilbert and the Coaches versus Cancer game in the first meeting with Roland-Story as major highlights for Nevada during the year.

For the season Nevada scored 53 runs after hitting .222 as a team with a .276 team on-base average and a .277 slugging average. The Cubs totaled 21 doubles, three triples and one home run and they had seven steals as a team.

Senior shortstop/pitcher Victoria Johnston was the top hitter for the Cubs this season. Johnston hit right at .300 and she posted .323 on-base and .417 slugging averages with four doubles and the team’s lone home run.

Johnston led Nevada with five RBI and she also scored six runs.

Freshman first baseman Erin Francis was the top newcomer to the lineup. Francis hit .298 with a team-best .439 slugging average and six doubles and she also tripled, scored six times and drove in three runs.

Junior outfielder Kelsey Haley also came close to hitting .300. Haley posted a .294 average and she tripled twice and scored seven runs.

Senior outfielder Haley Ellingson and freshman infielder/designated hitter Megan Anderson also hit above .250 for Nevada. Ellingson doubled twice and drove in four runs, Anderson tallied one double and four RBI and they both scored six times.

Senior outfielder Delaney Cheek hit right at .200. Cheek doubled twice and finished with seven runs and four RBI.

Sophomore catcher Tanner Messerli and senior second baseman Brooke Van Allen turned in solid seasons at the plate for Nevada. Messerli had a .256 on-base average and she led Nevada in runs with 10; Van Allen doubled four times, recorded three RBI and produced a .259 OBA.

Junior third baseman Abby Tupper and senior first baseman Margaret Toot were the two other Cubs with over 25 at-bats. Tupper walked four times and drove in one run and Toot hit .233 with three doubles.

Pitching is where Nevada improved the most from a year ago. The Cubs allowed 202 runs and posted a 7.05 staff earned-run average with 45 strikeouts and 62 walks in 130 innings this summer after recording an 8.67 ERA last season.

Junior Alex Van Dam did most of the work for Nevada on the hill. She threw 109 innings and posted a 2-17 record with a 7.45 ERA, 45 walks and 37 strikeouts in 109 innings.

Van Dam brought her ERA down from 7.70 last year and she cut 11 walks off last season’s total.

Johnston had the other two starts for Nevada. She went 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA, 17 walks and eight strikeouts in 15 innings.

On defense Nevada posted a .782 fielding average with 101 errors in 463 chances.

Johnston, Ellingson, Van Allen, Cheek and Toot are the seniors leaving the program. Van Dam said it will be tough to see her first senior class go.

"They have been the glue that has held the program together their entire careers," Van Dam said. "I thank them for supporting their coaches and team. Margaret worked hard to obtain a starting position at first base; Brooke was dedicated and willing to work harder than I’ve ever seen her work before; Victoria came back after a year off wanting to be a part of the program and played shortstop like a vacuum; Haley’s provided lightheartedness when stress set in and she was willing to change her position to right field and bunt when I asked and she was a good bunter; Delaney followed through with my directions and played left field like a rock star."

But the good news is the returning varsity players give Nevada a solid foundation to build around. With a talented eighth-grade class coming up to support the returning veterans, the Cubs have a great chance to make big strides in 2014.

"I am anticipating a great number of young athletes coming out for the program, which will help make us tougher," Van Dam said. "Combine that with those girls that are returning and it will be a very positive season for Nevada. I can’t wait for next year!"