Improving on the field. It’s something every softball team does throughout the season.
This season, that has been a struggle for the Indian Hills softball team. At 5-13 away from home this season, the Warriors are looking for any opportunity to keep improving their play and their record on their home diamond.
But like so many Midwest teams during this wet, cold March, playing outside is just not an option right now for Jim Overturf’s squad.
“I can’t remember a spring season that’s started out this way,” said Overturf, who is in his sixth season at the helm of the tradition-rich IHCC softball program. “We’ve had such mild springs in the past. It’s difficult. It’s a challenge.”
The head coach of the Warriors isn’t the only one frustrated by the Iowa weather.
“We have not had a full practice outside yet this season, but there is some work we’ve been able to get done indoors,” sophomore Hiliary Pennington said. “I was really looking forward to playing our first home games Friday, especially against Iowa Western, so I’m frustrated we’re not getting to. Hopefully, things can dry up for us to get back out on the field soon so we can try and play.”
Now forced to open regional play Tuesday on the road at Muscatine, IHCC was hoping to get at least two home games before the weekend was out. The Warriors hoped to take on Illinois Central this afternoon, but that contest has been postponed until Sunday, April 21. Of course, with the way the weather has been, there’s a chance Tuesday’s contests at Muscatine could also be postponed.
“I think a lot of us were ready to play on Friday,” sophomore Carrie Hudson said. “I don’t think we’ll lose that edge whenever we get out on the field. It just would have been nice to play on Friday and have that confidence there for us.”
Instead of getting outside Thursday to get in some final swings before preparing for the Reivers, the IHCC softball team spent another day inside a Tom Arnold Net Center that is also currently undergoing renovations. Preparing for in-game action in such confined spaces has only added to the early-season difficulties for the Warriors.
“We sit every day and figure out what we can do to stay sharp every day,” Overturf said. “At least we have this facility to come in to. There are some teams that don’t even have this. I always look at the brighter side and the more positive side of a situation.”
Finding positive aspects despite tough outcomes has been the theme of the early portion of the Warriors 2013 spring softball season. This is, of course, not the first time Mother Nature played tricks on the Warriors as a late February snowstorm kept IHCC from hitting the road for the regularly-scheduled opening games at the Northeast Mississippi Tournament.
One week later, the Warriors were thrown right into a much tougher storm down south. IHCC found itself snowed under, with 11 consecutive losses after winning their first game of the season over Calhoun, as teams with much more in-game experience took advantage of a Warrior squad that was just getting on the diamond for the first time this year.
“We played a lot of great competition. A lot of teams we faced are ranked,” sophomore Kaitlyn Matzen said. “You don’t really notice how much those games help you this early in the season. We learned last year that those experiences we gained on that season-opening trip came back to help us play really well late last year.”
Despite their struggles down south, IHCC showed that improved ability earlier this week with their first sweep of the season. The Warriors dominated a doubleheader at North Central, winning 6-1 in the opening game and 10-2 in a five-inning nightcap.
“We kind of put some things together. The kind of things I think we were always capable of,” Overturf said. “We got timely hitting, came up big with two outs and we got great pitching especially when we needed it to stomp out any rallies.”
One of the players that has been among the bright spots of the first 18 games of the season has been former Cardinal Comet slugger Felisha Durflinger. After spending her freshman year at Marshalltown last season, Durflinger is back in a familiar place in Wapello County as the Warriors’ top power hitter with regional-leading four home runs.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a power hitter. Whether it’s here, at Marshalltown or in high school I’ve been finding myself in those power-hitting spots in the lineup,” Durflinger said. “I love being here at Indian Hills being closer to home and being on the Division I level.”
The Warriors’ ability to put runs on the scoreboard isn’t what concerns Overturf as much this early in the season. Keeping teams off the scoreboard is, which will be the job of freshmen hurlers Kendie Schieber, Mackenzie Haight and the Indian Hills defense.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach. I believe your hitting can always catch up, but the game is won in the pitching circle and on the field,” Overturf said. “There are some things we still need to address on the field defensively. On the field is really the only place you can address that.”
Being able to build up that defensive skill is one thing that is hampered by the weather that has the forced the Warriors away from Hellyer Field and indoors to the Net Center. More rain and snow is in the forecast for this weekend, which could put a damper on IHCC’s hopes for hosting the Reed and Reed Invitational next weekend.
“Those are four games we can’t reschedule. If we lose them, we just lose them,” Overturf said. “We need dirt. We need something for our infielders to take ground balls off of and our pitchers to pitch on. For now, it is what it is.”