Just when the season started to be hitting full stride for the East Central College softball Falcons, it ended.
While the team thought it was pausing for spring break and a short delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any hopes for resuming were ended at a higher level.
Initially, competition was called off until April 3.
“That was the best case scenario we could hope for at the time,” East Central Head Coach Brad Wallach said.
Things changed greatly following the declaration of a national emergency.
“That’s when things started becoming very ‘real,’ ” Wallach said.
Soon after, the NJCAA announced the cancellation of basketball and all spring sports championships. Just like that, the 2020 spring season was over.
“A lot had happened quickly and it was a whirlwind of emotions,” Wallach said. “The team meeting was to put things in perspective. We realize we all still have the most important things in our lives and that’s what counts. What had transpired over five days had certainly stung us a little bit and was disappointing, but we needed to move on as soon as possible and we did.”
The Falcons ended on a flourish, winning their last three games to go 3-7 on the season.
East Central began with a Feb. 15-16 trip to Mississippi, losing all four games. The Falcons were beaten by Frontier and Shawnee to open play Saturday, Feb. 15, and then were beaten by Three Rivers and East Central Community College Sunday, Feb. 16.
Returning to Missouri, weather stopped doubleheaders with JV teams from Missouri Valley College and Missouri Baptist University March 2 and 3.
Lewis & Clark swept East Central in Godfrey, Ill., March 6. The Falcons then split with MCCAC foe St. Charles Community College at home, falling 8-5 in the first game, but winning the second one, 18-1.
After having another doubleheader at Southwestern Illinois College called off March 10, the Falcons swept the Central Methodist University JV team in Union March 11, winning 9-2 and 18-2.
In team statistical categories, the Falcons ranked 15th in NJCAA Division II with five triples.
Freshman first baseman Jena Monehan (Washington) was the hottest hitter at the close of the abbreviated season. She was batting .469 with four doubles, two triples and two home runs. She scored nine runs with 15 RBIs. Monehan drew two walks and stole two bases.
The team had six sophomores and Katie Gaus (Canton) was tops among the batters at .467. She had three doubles, 13 runs, eight RBIs, three walks and three stolen bases.
While the NJCAA will not charge spring athletes with using a year of eligibility, that doesn’t mean they’ll stay with the school.
Gaus and Mallory Feldewerth (Bowling Green) both have signed to play at William Woods University in Fulton next season.
Feldewerth hit .375 with two doubles, one home run, 11 runs, eight RBIs, two walks and one stolen base.
The other sophomores were Kaylyn McKee (Bowling Green), Maya Street (Clopton), Mackenzie Ahtenthal (Woodland) and Madelyn Webb (Wright City).
Jordan Owens (Northwest) played in the outfield and batted .382 with two doubles, nine runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases. Owens was a freshman this season.
McKee batted .290 with four doubles, one home run, three runs, 11 RBIs and one walk.
Dani Kimminau (St. Francis Borgia Regional) played left field this season, hitting .381 with one home run, five runs, two RBIs and three walks.
Others with doubles were Kristyn England (Cuba), Kaylee Abney (Owensville) and Kaili Edler (Northwest).
Jenna Crider (Washington) hit two doubles and England added one.
Crider walked twice. Abney, Edler and Street each drew one walk.
In the pitching department, Webb won both of her games and had a 1.56 ERA. She went nine innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks. She struck out six. Webb tossed one complete game.
The other win went to Sierra Voiles (Crocker), who was 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA and four complete games. Over 28 innings, she allowed 28 runs (18 earned) on 41 hits and nine walks while striking out 11.
Street pitched in three games, logging a 0-3 record and a 12.76 ERA. She completed all three. Over 17 innings, she allowed 35 runs (31 earned) on 36 hits and seven walks. She struck out 12.
Altenthal pitched in one game, taking a loss. She went one inning in that contest.
“I’m extremely proud of everything the girls did this year on the field and in the classroom,” Wallach said. “They gave everything they had, all of the time. We were confident, knew things were starting to ‘click,’ and were looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Then, things stopped and we quickly had to make a decision: feel sorry for ourselves, or keep things in perspective and be grateful for the time we had together as a team. We made the right choice.”
Before the 2020 season ever started, the team already had recruited its 2021 roster. Currently signed are Nikki Abbott (Incarnate Word Academy), Hailey Clooney (Seckman), Ashleigh Damazyn (Crystal City), Eva Dawson (Fulton), Kelly Ferguson (Timberland), Maddie Greco (Pacific), Lilly Prichard (Pacific) and Haley Schulte (Parkway West).