Dodging raindrops and puddles, the East Central College softball Falcons have made this a season to remember.
Playing last weekend in Nevada, Mo., ECC captured its second consecutive NJCAA Division II Region 16 title by shredding the competition.
ECC (21-14) outscored the opposition by a 26-2 margin during the three games in the tournament. Sophomore pitcher Julie Scheer, a New Haven graduate, tossed a no-hitter against tournament host Cottey College and was dominant in the other two games as well.
It’s been awhile in coming, but Head Coach Brad Wallach finally has the personnel in place to field competitive teams season after season. And now, his focus is going to be on reaching the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
The Falcons need two wins this coming weekend in Tishomingo, Okla., against Murray State College (15-36).
ECC swept Murray State last season to earn a trip to the national tournament, but heading to southern Oklahoma won’t be as easy as last season, when the Falcons swept at home.
Concentrating on the task at hand shouldn’t be difficult for Wallach and his staff, (Debra Mann-Kurka and Kendra Fennessey) and if the team can continue its recent form, it should have a good chance at booking a trip to Jackson, Miss., for the national championships.
The success Wallach has brought to the softball program has been unprecedented in that sport. ECC previously won regional softball titles in 2007, 1994 and 1977. In 2007, the team lost in the district final and was denied a chance to play in the national tournament. ECC played in the national event in 1977 and 1994.
Should ECC move beyond the District J event, the Falcons would become the first ECC team since the volleyball team advanced to three NJCAA Division II national tournaments in a row under Brad Bruns from 2008-10.
It’s been a long sports adventure for ECC sports. The school once had six sports but was whittled down to two at one point (due to budget cuts) before volleyball was added back in 2007.
Since volleyball was reinstated, it’s been the most successful sport. Bruns led the team to three District O titles and four championship matches in a row during his time.
In 2011-12, the Falcons reached the District O championship match twice, but failed to extend the season beyond. Lisa Mathes-Peters led her team to the Region 16 championship this past season, although with the program’s worst record at 15-29. It was a Pyrrhic victory as the team lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the district’s title match to determine the national tournament representative.
East Central’s soccer Falcons have been trying to get back to the level where they won four consecutive Region 16 titles from 2001-04 and MCCAC titles in 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2011.
Kean Barclay has been working very hard to improve the Falcons to the point where they can compete at a conference and regional level. And he’s been working hard to incorporate his program into the community.
For the second year in a row, the soccer Falcons volunteered for the Special Olympics. This year, the event was held at Westminster Christian Academy. The ECC players were buddies and were paired up with athletes for the day, following them around and supporting them in each event.
“This is a great event,” Barclay said. “I loved having the opportunity for our guys to do this for the last two years. It’s so wonderful for these college athletes to be able to share their passion for sport with these kids I’ve very proud of them. Ultimately, helping foster a passion for sport in others is something that I think all of us involved in sport have a responsibility to do. This has been such a rewarding experience for my guys. My returners were really looking forward to it.”
The sports program at East Central College has to get the community involved in its efforts. The teams provide entertainment for the community and a way to bring area residents onto campus for events.
Each team has tried to involve itself in the community in different ways. All three have been active in trying to incorporate local athletes into their rosters.
Wallach’s softball team leads the way in area representation. This year’s team has three Union players, two Borgia players, one from New Haven and one from Warrenton. Additionally, the coaches all have local ties.
The soccer Falcons had players from Union, Washington St. Clair and Borgia last season, led by its captain, Devin Arand.
While the volleyball Falcons had no local players last season, the team officially has signed two for next season according to information submitted to NJCAA.
By getting involved with the community, the East Central College athletic program hopes the community will get involved with its teams. If you’ve got a chance next season, head on by to see what they have to offer.