St. Joseph won district final game last season
SYCAMORE — Once again, the Mohawk softball team is making a tournament run, but while the name on the front of the jerseys has been the same, this year’s team has definitely been one of a kind.
From the known tragedies that have occurred over the past few months to a father, friend and classmate, respectively, the Warriors (20-5) captured the Midland Athletic League championship against Carey, district semifinal and district championship in the three days that followed the latter death.
“Being there for one another has really helped us,” catcher Dani Tyree said. “I think of softball as another family. There are some things we tell one another that we wouldn’t say if someone else is standing there. With everything that’s happened over the past few months, we’ve been there for one another. One day Kasey (Adelsperger) just came up and gave me a hug and coach (Jenny Weinandy) just turned and looked at us and asked if we just hugged. I said, ‘I just needed a hug,’ and she just looked at us.”
“We have such a tight bond and we’re beginning to gel more,” right fielder Nikki Kieffer said. “We know how each other are and we really work well together.”
Mohawk faces Fremont St. Joseph (16-12) at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the regional semifinals at Findlay High School and those returning from last year’s team have been holding a personal vendetta against the Crimson Streaks, who knocked them out of the district finals last year, 9-4.
“It’s definitely a payback because last year I got hurt early in the game and wasn’t unable to play,” Tyree said. “Knowing who did it to me, my mom made me a sign that said, ‘It’s all right, get them back in 2012,’ and it’s been hanging in my doorway ever since. Every game, I hit it before I walk out of my room.”
Tyree was forced out of the game in the first inning when a runner slid into her at the plate.
“The first time they played us (this season on April 18), we had some good hits, but they also had some good hits,” Weinandy said. “I’m a little concerned about their hitting, but our defense has greatly improved, as well as (pitcher) Kasey (Adelsperger). It could be a close game. If we’re on as a team, it shouldn’t be a problem, but you just never know in tournaments.”
Mohawk defeated the Crimson Streaks, 7-3, earlier this season. St. Joseph surprised many by knocking off Lakota, 2-0, in the district final.
“They did beat Lakota and their coach has experience and he’s going to try all he can to make us tense and make mistakes,” Weinandy said. “He gets his team to believe in themselves and that they can knock off anybody and it worked with Lakota.”
“I think tournaments are who wants it more,” second baseman Molli Cartwright said. “Coach says its our second season and that whatever you’ve done early in the year doesn’t really affect tournament time because at that time, anyone can come out on top. It doesn’t matter who beat who.”
Cartwright was part of the Warriors’ volleyball team that advanced to the state semifinals this year, along with other teammates.
“The volleyball program has helped because they have been to that next step and level and we have some of those girls on the team and they want to get back to that next point,” Weinandy said. “They understand what it takes to get there.”
“Just knowing how good it feels to get that far and wanting that feeling again,” first baseman Ashley Cooper said. “You don’t ever want to lose that feeling, so you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it again.”
The senior class for Mohawk distinctly remembers the last time it got to regionals and which site has been the downfall for its recent tournament exits.
“Freshman year, 2009,” Tyree said. “Going into the season, I told my mom, ‘I’m making it out of Findlay.’ I’ve told everybody that and then I found out regionals are at Findlay, so that meant more games there. When I walked out of the dugout Friday (after winning the district), I told my mom that it was good to get gold out of Findlay and I didn’t want silver. It’s been my goal to make it out of Findlay.”
Mohawk got the initial monkey off its back by winning districts at Findlay. The Warriors defeated McComb, 2-0, and North Baltimore, 8-1, last week.
While already having won two state championships with her teams of 2003 and 2005, Weinandy thinks this team also is special.
“This team is all-around the strongest team I’ve had,” she said. “I’ve had some really strong individuals, but I haven’t had a team this strong in a lineup than the (two state championship teams). The tradition is still going on and these girls have sisters that were there and it is expected to have a good year.
“I think the trust is there,” she added. “Whoever you play beside, you trust they’re going to make a play on the ball, dive for the ball, get dirty and they’re going to do their best for the next person.”
In preparation for their next step, players from the team will be doing the same routine they have been doing for years once the bus gets rolling Wednesday.
“I listen to the same two songs before every game like I did with volleyball and they’re ‘Remember the Name’ and ‘Can’t Be Touched,’” Cartwright said. “It just gets me in that game mode.”
Her coach has a simple philosophy with every game.
“Just one more game,” Weinandy said. “We’ll see what happens.”
By PATRICK MASSARA