Softball team wishes farewell to seniors, recalls season’s memories despite pandemic

Senior+Ashley+Steinbugl+prepares+for+a+game%2C+playing+one+of+the+last+few+games+left+of+the+season.+Steinbugl+plays+softball+with+her+sister+senior+Riley+Steinbugl.+

Madison Zimmerer

Senior Ashley Steinbugl prepares for a game, playing one of the last few games left of the season. Steinbugl plays softball with her sister senior Riley Steinbugl.

During the spring of last year, the softball season was cancelled. As of now, the softball team has started their season and have been playing since March. Although the softball team is allowed to meet and compete against other teams, COVID-19 has still affected how the practices and games work. 

Senior Ashley Steinbugl has been playing softball for 11 years, and the mandated safety precautions have been something new that she has had to adjust to. 

“We can’t shake hands at the end of a game, and [we do] social distancing…the umpires have to wear masks when we’re playing. On the field, we are already really far apart, so we don’t have to wear them on the field. When we’re in the dugout and batting like that we do,” Steinbugl said. 

Regarding their practices, last year’s cancellation also impacted their practices that usually take place during the summer. 

“It has been hard on some of us, especially those of us that had our summer seasons cancelled, and it has been hard trying to work around the guidelines and the mask protocols,” senior Mackenzie Shaw said. 

Because of this, the team wasn’t as prepared as they usually would be when game season arrived. 

“The pandemic caused us to lose a whole softball season last year. In doing so, this caused us to be a year behind in skill and working together as a whole,” sophomore Grace Glasgow said.

Glasgow has been playing softball for eight years, starting out at the Keystone Girls Softball League in third grade, something many softball athletes take part in.

For some athletes, the pandemic has discouraged them in different ways.

Even though she’s only a freshman, Mykynzee Milchak has been playing softball for 10 years and COVID-19 has presented challenges she has never faced before.

“The pandemic has taken a huge toll on all of us. There was a point where we couldn’t practice and last year we didn’t even get a season. It’s been really hard to not do something that we all love and use as a type of coping mechanism,” Milchak said.

For junior Madison Zimmerer, she felt uncertain during this softball season, the possibility of the next practice or game being cancelled.  

“It’s hard not knowing if we are going to have games or if we are going to have practices; not knowing [if we] should have our masks on [or if] we should be in school. It’s all very confusing and hard to understand if I’m being honest,” Zimmerer said.

Yet, this change in what they are used to hasn’t lessened the motivation or passion many of the athletes have. For some, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what they have now compared to last year. 

“It was really sad last year. I was crying a lot because I felt so bad for my senior friends because they didn’t get a season. This year I am definitely grateful that we have a season, but you know, some things are different,” Steinbugl said.

One of the reasons the players can persevere is because of their fellow teammates. 

“We do communicate well together. We [the team] talk outside of school we’re always like, ‘okay, this is what we need to work on, this is what we can do better, this is what we already do good,’” Steinbugl said. 

Among these players are nine seniors who will graduate at the end of this year. 

Because of the relationship between the teammates and the connections they have made with their coaches, many of the seniors will be saddened when they have to leave the team.

“I will miss all of the fun we had. We may not all get along at times, but we all have one thing in common and it’s the game and we will always share that,” Shaw said. 

Most of my friends are on the softball team, so that’s where I met most of them. I’m really going to miss it. The coaches are like parents to me…”

— Ashley Steinbugl

Steinbugl is close with the underclassmen players, giving rides and driving some of these students to and from practices. To Steinbugl, softball means a lot to her.

“Most of my friends are on the softball team so that’s where I met most of them and I’m really going to miss it. The coaches are like parents to me, it’s not even about softball; they care about your grades, your social life, they ask you questions all the time and it’s just like a big family,” Steinbugl said. 

Many of the underclassmen who are close with the seniors are sad as well, especially Zimmerer who has played with the seniors for years.

“I have known most of the seniors since I was about 11 or 12, so it will definitely be a different experience next year not having them around in some way,” Zimmerer said.

Since the senior athletes will graduate, this means there will be an impact on the team as a whole, specifically for next year. 

“Because we have nine seniors this year, this is going to affect the upcoming softball program. In the past years, I have played with a few of the seniors. Overall, next season we will have to make a big adjustment to them being gone,” Glasgow said. 

Some look forward to the new athletes who will be on the team next year, despite losing nine senior players. 

“I’m definitely close with a few of them for sure, and it will definitely be a change. It will be sad seeing them leave, but I think we have a good group of girls coming up so I think we’ll be alright,” Smearman said.

However, the softball team still has a few games left until the seniors graduate, and the athletes can’t help but look back at their time on the team and recall the memories they have made.

“There was a JV tournament, and we got second place in the tournament. It was such an amazing day, and the feelings and emotions just throughout the whole dugout were insane. We all cried on the way home because we were so proud of ourselves, and I will never forget that day,” Zimmerer said. 

Zimmerer has been playing softball for 10 years and has always had an interest in the sport.

For Smearman and Steinbugl, the best memories for them have been the bus rides after a game and just being together.

“One of my favorite memories, I think this was my ninth grade year, I can’t remember where we played, but it was an away game and on the bus ride home we had kind of like a little dance party. We played music and we all were dancing and singing. It was so much fun and that moment just sticks out to me,” Smearman said. 

“The best memories so far have definitely been the bus rides to our softball games because we always have a lot of fun going there and talking about the game. Then on the way home, we reflect on it,” Steinbugl said.

Another memory for the team is being crowned for Homecoming. Senior Riley Steinbugl was crowned Homecoming queen this year in April 16.