By Justin Hunter
CHURUBUSCO – The Churubusco softball team can be described in one word over the past three seasons – improved.
Coach Phil Nicolette finished his second season with the Lady Eagles, winning the program’s first conference tournament title.
He inherited a six-game winning team. Nicolette led the team to 11 wins his rookie season. The Lady Eagles won 15 games this season, and four of their losses came from extra innings. Two games in which the team was favored were rained out.
“We could have had a 20-win season,” said Nicolette.
Churubusco needed quite a bit of work to go from a single digit winning season to winning a tournament championship.
“We needed consistent practices and show up to work hard. Our defense made all sorts of mistakes my first year,” said Nicolette. “Our biggest improvement this season was the defense.”
The Churubusco defense had a fielding percentage of over 0.900, despite starting six underclassmen.
Another major component of the softball team was its resilience. The Lady Eagles were down in all three games of the conference tournament. They defeated Fairfield and Eastside, both teams that handily beat Churubusco toward the beginning of the season.
“The best thing about the team is that they never quit,” said Nicolette. “Our team last year wouldn’t back out of a bad start. This year we were down early in critical games and it didn’t faze us. We got a chance to beat some good teams, and that’s what we did. That had to be the highlight of the season for us.”
The Lady Eagles were down 7-0 in the sectional title game against South Adams. Churubusco scored five consecutive runs, and fell 7-5. They left baserunners in scoring position. South Adams lost in the semi-state championship game.
“We’re that close,” said Nicolette.
One component that Nicolette would like to improve next season is consistency at the plate.
“We did struggle at bat at times. We would hit and score a bunch of runs against good pitchers, then go quite against average ones. That’s something we’re going to work on. It didn’t make much sense,” he said. “Most teams either have a great offense, and score a lot of runs or they have a great pitcher and every game is low scoring. Our team played in many games that were high scoring, and low scoring games. We beat Angola 1-0 and we had a game in sectionals that was scoreless heading into extras. I never knew before the game started if we were going to be in a low or high school game.”
Nicolette was impressed by the performances of the younger, and less experienced players, but claims the team wouldn’t nearly be the same without senior leadership.
Mallory Pearson was a standout for the Lady Eagles. The third baseman was selected in an Indiana all-star game, and all-state.
“Pearson was our verbal and leader on the field. Carlee Koldyke pitched all season for us, because we didn’t have anyone else. She took on a huge work load. She had to pitch six games in one week at one point.”