Royals win seven of final 10 games
The Colo-Nesco softball team endured its lumps early, but the Royals ended the 2013 playing its best softball of the season under coach Stan Oppedal.
Coming off a 16-11 season a year ago, the Royals struggled early this season, winning just three of their first 14 games. But they started to figure things out in the last two weeks of the regular season and that positive vibe carried over into the postseason as Colo-Nesco finished 10-17 overall and 7-6 in the Iowa Star Conference.
Oppedal, who came out of retirement to take over the program this season, said he enjoyed seeing the team grow as the season progressed.
"We struggled at first with physical and mental errors and we had problems scoring runs," Oppedal said. "But these players did not show any signs of giving up and I give them a lot of credit for that. Because of this and their integrity and strong work ethic, we steadily improved. We started winning to the point where we looked like a different team."
Colo-Nesco started off 1-4, with its first victory being a 9-3 triumph over Okoboji at the Ballard Festival tournament in Huxley on June 1. The Royals followed the Ballard Festival up with back-to-back lopsided victories over GMG (15-1) and Meskwaki (14-2) on June 3 and June 7.
Then things got rough for Colo-Nesco. The Royals went on a 10-game losing skid from June 8 through June 19.
That put the Royals at 3-14. But they refused to wilt.
On June 21, Colo-Nesco ended its losing streak with an 11-5 victory over GMG. They added a 7-4 road win over Dunkerton in their next game and nearly knocked off a solid Heart of Iowa Conference foe in Colfax-Mingo on June 27, before falling by a 4-3 score on the road.
Colo-Nesco bounced back from the Colfax-Mingo game to top North Tama by a 6-4 score and then the Royals scored an 8-2 win at CAL. The regular season concluded with the Royals splitting a doubleheader with Grandview Park Baptist.
After winning five of their final seven regular season games, the Royals were poised to do some damage in the postseason.
Class 1A regional play began with Colo-Nesco scoring an impressive 18-8 victory over Grundy Center. The Royals followed that up with an exciting 6-5 victory over Dunkerton two days later to reach the regional semifinals.
In the semifinals, Colo-Nesco ran into fifth-ranked Don Bosco and the Royals were no match for the Dons in a 12-0 loss to end the season. But even with the difficult finish, the Royals still didn’t have any reason to hang their heads after winning seven of their final 10 games.
"We grew by leaps and bounds in fundamental skills and confidence," Oppedal said. "These players encouraged each other and happily worked hard to improve."
On offense Colo-Nesco scored 135 runs. During the regular season the Royals hit .261 with a .361 on-base average, .329 slugging average, 27 extra base hits and 46 steals.
Full season stats were not available at press time.
In the field the Royals had a fielding average of .880 with 76 errors in 633 chances.
Sophomore Hannah Buseman, freshman Peyton Hall, junior Kylie Sarver, sophomore Shayla Dean and senior Erica Babinat all hit over .300 during the regular season.
Buseman posted a .329 batting average with a .420 on-base average. She scored 22 runs, drove in 13, walked 11 times, stole eight bases and hit one double, triple and home run apiece.
In the field Buseman made 52 assists, 45 putouts and just seven errors.
Hall hit .326 with a team-best .466 OBA. She walked nine times, scored five runs, knocked in eight and stole three bases.
Sarver posted a .321 batting average and delivered on-base and slugging averages of .438 and .472 respectively. Sarver doubled five times and homered once and she scored 11 runs, walked 11 times, totaled nine RBI and four steals.
On defense Sarver made just three errors and she threw out eight runners at catcher.
Dean hit .310 with a .431 OBA and she led the team with 14 steals in 16 attempts. Dean also scored 13 times and drove in five runs; defensively she finished with 20 assists, 16 putouts and just three errors, playing mainly at shortstop.
Babinat hit .304 with eight doubles and 14 RBI during the regular season. She stepped up and homered twice and added another double during the postseason.
In the field Babinat made 33 assists and 24 putouts ,playing primarily at pitcher.
Sophomore first baseman Sam Riese and junior outfielder Madison Farren also hit over .200 for Colo-Nesco.
Riese was the top power hitter on the team as she recorded a .517 slugging average during the regular season with five doubles and three home runs. Riese added two doubles and a home run during the postseason.
For the regular season, Riese hit at a .283 clip with 11 runs and a team-high 22 RBI. In the field she made 110 putouts.
Farren posted a .241 average during the regular season with one double, nine runs, 11 RBI and eight steals. She made 21 putouts and one assist on defense.
McKenna Farren – Madison’s twin sister – had a .258 OBA with six runs and five RBI during the regular season. McKenna had 25 assists and 31 putouts playing mainly second base in the field.
Eighth-grader Kassie Robinson and sophomores Melanie Van Loon and Michelle Babinat also saw quality playing time during the season.
Robinson had a .208 OBA during the regular season with six RBI and three sacrifice hits and she made 37 putouts in the field. Van Loon had a .318 OBA with 10 runs, one double and eight RBI and she had 14 putouts and nine assists at third base.
Michelle hit .267 with a .353 OBA and two RBI in 15 at-bats and she also was frequently used as a courtesy runner in totaling 12 runs.
As a team the Royals gave up 184 runs. During the regular season the Royal pitching staff posted a 5.44 earned-run average with 89 strikeouts and 115 walks in 139 innings.
Erica did most of the pitching. She went 7-14 during the regular season with a 5.26 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 98 walks in 126 1/3 innings.
Riese threw 12 2/3 innings. She finished 0-2 with a 7.18 ERA, eight strikeouts and 17 walks.
Next season Colo-Nesco loses the longtime services of Erica.
"We will miss her," Oppedal said.
But with everyone else back, the Royals will have the potential to post a winning record in 2014.
"If we can start the new season where we left off this year we will have a good year," Oppedal said. "Off-season work will make us better yet."