Emily Hawkins —
Normal college kid’s spring break: going to PCB, South Padre, anywhere that isn’t Illinois. Staying up all night, hanging by the pool all day, waking up at noon, and doing it all over.
IC softball and baseball’s spring break: traveling to Florida, sweating in the hot sun while chasing, catching, and hitting balls, drinking Gatorade, going to bed before midnight (maybe a little later, don’t tell Coach), waking up well before noon, and doing it all over.
This spring break, the Blueboys boarded a flight to Ft. Meyers, Florida on February 28 after classes ended. The boys faced plenty of capable teams in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic such as Ohio Northern University, and Thiel College. They came away with an impressive 5-3 record for the trip.
Blueboys offense was powered by Athlete of the Week, Dom Dalfonso (Jr.) with a .429 batting average, sophomore Austin Dormire (.368), and seniors T.J. Albers (.360) and Nick Visconti (.455). Senior Matt Pardo also batted in seven runs on the trip.
The Blueboys were picked to finish fourth in the Midwest Conference. Junior pitcher Jake Horve believes that the ranking might be a blessing in disguise. “It’s a motivating factor, we obviously don’t want to finish fourth but I don’t put too much into preseason rankings. Our expectations for ourselves are pretty high and we know we’re going to have to grind out every game. But knowing that nobody else in the conference expects much out of us gives us the underdog mentality as a team and I think that makes us dangerous”.
The Blueboys continue their season in Jacksonville at Lenz field versus Fontbonne University on March 13 at 2:00 p.m.
The Lady Blues tried to board a flight to Orland but ended up not making it. Scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. flight out of Springfield the Saturday after classes got out for break, the softball team arrived at the airport in plenty of time to relax and get excited about leaving the cold of Illinois to go to warm and sunny Florida. Winter storm Titan had other ideas.
The flight was delayed. No problem, the team can just play games and talk and do each other’s hair for a few hours. The flight was delayed again. Okay, kind of sucks, but it’s fine, the team can just watch the baseball team play online and take naps.
Flight cancelled altogether.
Okay, what were they supposed to do now? Head Coach Meghan Roman’s solution: “Hey team, we’re driving to Florida, get your stuff and let’s go.” So at 9:30 p.m., 14 and a half hours before their first game, the Lady Blues packed their bags and themselves into the luxurious IC vans and started driving.
Because of the freezing rain that graciously accompanied the snow, the team had to pull over an hour after driving because their windshield wiper was stuck. The team drives to Wal-Mart’s auto center and buys another wiper blade then YouTube’s how to attach it. Okay, cool, let’s drive.
It’s now midnight on Sunday morning. Not even a half hour later, the freezing rain gets the best of the durable vans and the coaches wisely decide to pull over for the night.
The vans arrive at the hotel at 1:00 a.m., the team takes a four hour nap, then resumes driving. After driving all day and missing two games, the Lady Blues tiredly rolled into Kissimmee, Florida at 3 a.m., Monday morning. Junior Briana Iosco commented on the frustration of the team saying, “We were stuck with no answers to our situation, we weren’t prepared. It was just awful.”
The Lady Blues, after missing two games from the cancelled flight and one game on a rain delay, finished 2-4 for the trip. They played extremely competitive teams such as 9th in the nation, Trine University, and 12th ranked Augustana College. Junior Courtney Kwasnitza, sophomore Abby Campbell, and freshman Hannah Knapper each had a .368 batting average in the Dot Richardson Spring Games, Kwasnitza earning Midwest Conference Performer of the Week rights with a home run, a triple, four runs, and four RBI’s. Sophomore Leah Shumaker led the pitching staff with an ERA of 3.97.
The Lady Blues were picked to finish third in the Midwest Conference and return four starting seniors including second baseman, Anna Jacobs. Jacobs ignored the expected third place finish and focused on the team’s overall goals. “Our expectations this year are to win conference and to make a run in the national tournament.” For Jacobs, this season is the last one with the team that also doubles as her family. “I got the opportunity not just to play with but to become a family with all of them. I’m going to miss them all!”
The Lady Blues continue their season Monday, March 24 at Benedictine University at 3 p.m. in Springfield.
*Photo Courtesy of Illinois College Athletics Webpage