The softball season that could have been

Derrick Calhoun Star Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2020

With the recent decisions concerning the coronavirus worldwide and nationwide, the National Junior College Athletic Association has made the decision to cancel the remaining seasons for NJCAA Spring sports programs nationwide.

In Miles City, this means that the 2020 Spring seasons for the Miles Community College baseball and softball teams ended just after beginning. This decision is especially tough to handle for the MCC Lady Pioneers softball team, who had just kicked off their inaugural season.

Their first season got off to a blazing start, winning two of their first three games in convincing fashion against Mon-Dak rivals before hitting a road block on their recent road trip to Washington. The players and coaches continued to be excited and confident about the rest of the season when they received the devastating news that the rest of the season was canceled.

The team, that affectionately calls itself Team One, because they are and will always be the first softball team in MCC’s history, will be able to return most of their players next year. The NJCAA has also ruled that players will not lose a year of eligibility for this lost season, and teams will also be able to have expanded rosters for next season to be able to accommodate letters of intent that have already been signed.

“This year has meant so much to me. I was given the opportunity to continue playing the sport that I love and was able to make friendships that will last a lifetime,” said Ashlin Hiller, a freshman right hand pitcher for the Lady Pioneers softball team from Lolo, Montana. “When other divisions started suspending and canceling their seasons, I hoped and hoped that our season would survive so the first ever MCC team could show everyone who we are and what we are made of. When our season got cancelled I was devastated because I knew that meant we would all be going home and not get to be together for five months.”

Janie Nelson, a freshman catcher from Teton Valley, Idaho, also shared her feelings about the loss of their season.

“This year has meant the world to me. I gained a second family and a whole new love for the game of softball,” she said. “I was heartbroken to hear the news that all of our hard work would not pay off until next year, but I am anxious to get back on the field and show people what we can do as a team.”

According to freshman outfielder and right hand pitcher Reagan Harper, from Billings, having this season taken from them so suddenly was something she never saw coming.

“It was a heartbreak that I didn’t know I could feel. What this family has done for me cannot be expressed with words. I have met some of the most amazing and influential people and I’m lucky enough to call them my teammates and coaches. This group of people have become family and enriched my heart and life,” she said. “I can’t wait to complete our unfinished business next season and show everyone what Team One was made of and how Team Two will follow. This opportunity and experience have changed my life for the better. This isn’t the ending we wanted, but I know it will spark a fire underneath us and push us to be even better than we know we can be.”

Josie Chapweske, a recent 2019 Custer County District High School graduate and freshman on the MCC volleyball and softball teams also shared those feelings about her teammates and the loss of the season.

“This year I have never been so devastated in my life. My softball career came to a screeching halt and all my friends left me in the course of four days. This year my teammates and I competed with established programs and showed them that we can compete well at this level. We did nothing but move forward and make constant progress while being led by Coach SJ, Coach E, and Coach JC,” Chapweske said. “We grew as individuals and as a team everyday. We left here knowing that we are loved by so many and left the college a better place. We left knowing that we had established a family that will last a lifetime.”

According to head coach Shawna Juarez, after she has had a few days to reflect upon the year, she said she knows full and well that Team One has created a vibrant culture and environment that will continue to love, serve, and make those around them better.

“The culture that has been paved by Team One has set the momentum for how we want to go about our business next year. The legacy that they are leaving is ethereal and something that this coaching staff is so very thankful to be part of,” Coach Juarez said. “We truly do love one another like family and that has been a consistent pillar of our year and will always continue.”

A positive that the coaching staff is focusing on according to Juarez is that the teams sole sophomore, Meghan Krantz (infielder from Cheney, Washington), will continue her playing career at Eastern Oregon University next year but nearly every freshman is returning to MCC next season.

“The fact that we can potentially have them back for yet another two years is something that is very comforting to us during this challenging time,” Juarez said. “In addition to our returners, we have a very talented incoming freshman class that will surely fit into what we have developed at Miles.”

Juarez also said that, while this is a challenging time for many individuals, “the health and well being of those whom we love and all of the lives across the world will always be our upmost and first concern.”

“Team 2 is ready and prepared to love and serve this community,” she said. “We are thankful for the amazing support that we have already received this season and how arms wide open our community has embraced us. Catch us next fall on the field.”

(Contact Derrick Calhoun at mcsportsreporter@gmail.com or at 406-234-0450.)

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