MUSCATINE, Iowa — A look at the Muscatine Community College softball team’s record from last season — 42-13 — indicates 2013 was a good season.
And it was in the eyes of 17-year head coach Scott Beatty.
Beatty, though, who had won more than 42 games in every season except his first, admits something was missing.
“The thing that last year’s team lacked was they didn’t have a calm approach in pressure situations,” he said.
“We easily could have won the region; it didn’t work out that way. We made a couple crucial mistakes in the middle infield.”
Indian Hills Community College’s Laci Moore connected for an RBI single that broke a 1-all score in the sixth inning of its Region XI Tournament game against MCC. An Indian Hills two-run single in the seventh sealed the game and sent the Cardinals home, after they had beat Indian Hills in their regional opener.
“There are a lot of things that could have been done differently,” Beatty said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.”
MCC opens its spring campaign Sunday at the St. Ambrose junior varsity Winter Dome Tournament with a 9 a.m. game against Waubonsee Community College and an 11 a.m. matchup with the Fighting Bees JV squad.
Instilling a calm approach has been a top priority for Beatty and his staff this season, especially since the 2014 roster has 12 freshmen and just five sophomores.
After that final game against Indian Hills last season, the Cardinals said goodbye to seven sophomores, including All-Americans Kaitlyn Caston and Caitlin Nichol, who accounted for about 37 percent of the team’s RBIs and about 30 percent of its hits.
But MCC lost more than just big bats.
“[They] gave a lot of leadership and confidence. They were true leaders on the team,” said Beatty, who enters the season with 765 career wins.
Returning sophomores are Mariah Freel, pitcher, Julia Sass, outfielder, Alex Tuminaro, outfielder, Nikki Watkins, outfielder, and Carley Wescom, infielder.
Beatty said the five don’t stand out on the roster, but are leaders by example and have bonded with the large, athletic freshmen class.
“At first it was kind of a lot to take in, just because our coach really expects us to step up," Sass said. "But the girls we’ve all gotten along really well. The sophomores and I have tried to step up."
Freel is the team’s only returning pitcher, which means the Cardinals will be young in the circle. Former Muscatine High School pitcher and all-stater Kayla Gaunt, who played a month on Division II University of Indianpolis’ team before leaving the team after being hospitalized for several days with rhabdomyolysis, is expected to be the team’s No. 1 hurler.
“She has had a great fall season on the field, off the field,” Beatty said of Gaunt.
Catching for Gaunt will by freshmen Bailey Oetting, from Sterling, Ill., who Beatty said is being recruited by six Division I programs.
“It’s nice to have that caliber player behind the plate,” Beatty said.
Overall, the Cardinals will be freshmen heavy on the field. Getting them up to speed quickly is as important as ever, as the NJCAA mandated that regional and the Division I College World Series be moved up by two weeks, which makes fitting in 30 required dates that much more difficult for MCC.
“We’ve had to go back into February, where we’ve never had to play before,” Beatty said.
The Cardinals were scheduled to open the season Feb. 7 in Kansas, but those games were rescheduled to March due to a snow storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow.
“With the weather, that’s kind of that gauntlet that you’re playing,” Beatty said. “But it’s forcing us as a program to go south, or half-way south, a month before we ever had to before.
“It forces the kids to respond earlier with less practice for us and at the same time [it impacts our] budget. It does put a strain on the budget having to travel to play.”
Beatty, though, thinks his team may be able to turn it into a positive if they can get on the field early and carry over its strong preseason.
“I think we need to believe in our selves," Sass said. "We always have all of the talent. Coach has to remind us of that sometimes, I think we second guess ourselves. We are all athletic and we just need to play softball, the game we played growing up. Just go out and play."