Softball seniors second chance

Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

On Jun. 8, Minster seniors Sam Trego, Royce Glass, Laney Hemmelgarn and Kaitlyn Wolf laced up their cleats and put on their softball uniforms for the first game of the season one last time, it was gameday. 

Their senior season was taken from them and the five other Minster softball seniors, Liv Wuebker, Mara Schmeising, Kyrsten White, Emily Stubbs, and Emma Olberding, when the spring sport season was officially canceled on Apr. 20. 

“We found out school was canceled and that meant softball was too,” said Hemmelgarn. “That was heartbreaking. Getting to be out here this summer is a good opportunity, a chance to redeem what we lost in the spring.”

“It was kind of a shock,” said Glass of learning the season was canceled. “because I knew I was going onto college, but I was also bummed. I worked really hard in the offseason and to know I wasn't going to get to play made me doubt it and think I just wanted to be done because I did all that work for nothing.”

In early March, when sports leagues, professional, collegiate, and prep, around the country began to suspend their seasons due to COVID-19, prep softball coaches around the state of Ohio were already in contact with each other and saw the writing on the wall that the spring sport season might not happen. 

“We worked all offseason and right before the season started it got canceled,” said Trego. “I think that’s what was most upsetting.”

Discussions locally ranged from scheduling games with just Midwestern Athletic Conference (MAC) teams to holding some sort of tournament in June but ended with each school scheduling games as they saw fit to fill out their summer schedule. 

With travel ball an emphasis in the summer for the sport, coaches had to balance trying to form a roster, making a summer schedule, and making sure they were doing everything in accordance with the guidelines that would allow sports to return. 

This also raised the question, what would seniors do? Moving on to the next phase of their life, whether that be college or the workforce, awaits and with the spring sport season canceled and all sports taking place this summer, later than they normally would have, Minster softball coach Robb Hemmelgarn left it up to the players. 

“We all kind of decided we’re going to let seniors play if they want to play,” said R. Hemmelgarn of his discussion with the other eight coaches in the MAC when they were initially looking to begin scheduling games. “Some (seniors) are kind of looking at it as closure, they know this isn’t the spring season, but they want some kind of closure.” 

R. Hemmelgarn reached out to each of the nine softball seniors that would have been donning the orange and black this spring to gauge their intertest in playing this summer with Hemmelgarn, Glass, Trego, and Wolf deciding to play one more season of high school softball. 

“There was a two-month period after we found out we couldn’t play and I was finally kind of starting to get over it,” said Wolf on her decision to play this summer. “I have college coming up, senior trips and all that stuff. But I thought, ‘you know what, it’ll be fun, I need the exercise too.’ Then, whenever Laney pitched the first pitch and I caught it, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m so excited to be here.’” 

“I was upset we didn’t get one more chance at our sport,” added Trego. “I wanted another chance to play with my friends.” 

“I was pretty upset, pretty heartbroken, for about two months,” said Hemmelgarn. “I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this now,’ but as soon as the opportunity came there was no doubt that I needed to be out here.” 

Glass told The Community Post she was nervous at their first game, but soon got used to that familiar softball feel once the game got going. 

For Trego the return to the softball diamond felt real when she heard her walk up song, “Ooh Ahh” by Gritz.

A win in their first game against Fort Recovery saw Hemmelgarn, the pitcher, and Wolf, the catcher, on the mound and behind the plate once more.

“We had been working like crazy in the offseason and things were looking good,” said Hemmelgarn. “Then, they called (the season). We still put in some work on the down low and realized, ‘hey we might have a season,’ and it’s just been so much fun realizing we can step it up out here and have a great summer.”

“We’ve been best friends for forever so it definitely helps us out, we know what we’re thinking,” added Wolf of returning to the softball diamond with a familiar face on the pitching mound. “(Hemmelgarn’s) starting to work on some really cool pitches that I’ve never seen before so it was exciting to see them in play.”

“I put on my jersey today and started crying,” said Hemmelgarn on Jun. 8. “like, ‘Oh my gosh, it's what we didn't get but were getting a little bit of it back. Just to prove what we could have been this year.’”