The Ottumwa Courier

February 28, 2013

Warrior softball heads south for season opener

SCOTT JACKSON
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Avoiding the snowy winter weather of Iowa is what always sends the Indian Hills softball team on a season-opening trip to the south.

This year, the winter weather put the Warriors’ opening trip on ice for at least a week.

Last Thursday’s snowstorm that passed through southern Iowa scrapped the Warriors’ travel plans to last weekend’s Tiger-Fest Tournament at Northeast Mississippi Community College. But after waiting out yet another round of snow earlier this week, Jim Overturf’s squad finally hit the road Thursday for their opening games of the 2013 spring season.

“The last two weeks weather-wise has not been good for us,” Overturf said. “We finally got enough of a break to get on the road. We’ve still got nine good days of competition that we can get in.”

IHCC kicks off the softball season today with three games at the Wallace State Tournament. The first pitch of the season will be thrown at 11 a.m. this morning against Calhoun, as Overturf will put his team to a tripleheader test with games at 1 p.m. against Alabama Southern and 3 p.m. against the host squad Wallace State also on tap today.

“Every game, we’ll get stronger as a team. Calhoun is very competitive and Wallace State is ranked third in the nation,” Overturf said. “I want great competition. It’s only going to make us better. I want us mentally prepared to face the best competition possible.”

The Warriors will open the season with five games over the two-day trip at Wallace State, facing Central Alabama Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and Snead State at Noon. IHCC will hang around for a doubleheader against No. 3 (DI) Wallace State Tuesday afternoon before heading to Florida for six mores games over three days.

“This week is one of the most challenging I think I’ve put together for our team,” Overturf said. “All of these teams are from the southern part of the United States, so we’ll be facing teams that have played around a dozen games.”

“That’s always a challenge for us. We’ve had some solid practices, but they’ve all been indoors. We need to get out on the field.”

Last season proved Indian Hills that the experience gained by playing in games down south is just as valuable as any wins gained on the trip. IHCC won just three of their first 11 games on the season-opening southern swing, a stretch that kept the Warriors below .500 for much of the regular season.

It wasn’t until the late stages of last year that IHCC saw the benefits of playing against tough early-season competition pay off. The Warriors reached .500 for the first time after their 40th game in mid-April and finished the year strongly with 13 wins in their last five games, including wins in two straight games on the final day of the regional tournament before Iowa Western rallied late from a 4-0 deficit to beat IHCC in the regional title game.

“I think this group is going to up for challenges all season long,” Overturf said. “I think we have the ability to do some nice things. As long as we don’t get discouraged, we should be a better team when we come back home.”

The Warriors return three sophomores from last year’s 34-27 squad. Outfielder Hilliary Pennington along with infielders Kaitlyn Matzen and Carrie Hudson all played key roles in helping IHCC nearly rally for a regional title while helping the Warriors win four games in extra innings and 10 games by two runs or less.

Once again, IHCC has stocked up on several talented softball players from the Hawkeye State. Among those homestate talents include Cardinal teammates Felisha Durflinger and Laci Moore as well as Centerville infielder Olivia Starcevich.

No matter how things go today in their first three games of the season, Overturf says his team is just happy to be making the trip.

“We’re just glad to not be seeing any snow,” Overturf joked. “I think we caught a good stretch of dry weather to get our season started.”