Two seasons ago, the DeKalb softball team advanced to a Class 3A supersectional and thought they had a chance of getting to the state tournament in 2012.
However, star pitcher and 2011 All-State Third Team member Katie Kowalski missed half of her sophomore campaign with an injury and her absence led to what DeKalb coach Jeff Davis calls a less-than-spectacular 19-15 record and an early exit with a 19-18 loss in the regional title game.
“The first regional game was pretty awesome,” senior center fielder Sabrina Killeen said. “Facing Burlington Central with such a high score we had, it really pushes you. Losing by one pushes you to really want to win that game next year.”
Killeen and senior second baseman Hannah Walter want to reach the Barbs’ prior success during their final high school season. One way DeKalb hopes to accomplish the team’s goals of winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 championship and making it to at least a supersectional is by having fun.
“As coach Davis would say ‘We have serious times and there are funny times’ and I think we mix that well together in practices and in outside activities we do together,” Killeen said. “Our team is very comical, and we have a lot of fun together.
Walter said the laughter the teammates share with one another is contributing to how the Barbs gel on the field in terms of communication and game-time production.
The seniors – who will be No. 1 and No. 2 in the Barbs’ batting order – have taken team bonding exercises to the next level as they organized and scheduled for the entire team to serve soup to the needy at Feed’Em Soup.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Morgan Newport will step in to share the work load with Kowalski to keep the junior’s innings as low as possible, and will be one of the team’s two left-handed batters.
With a powerful batting lineup, an impressive one-two pitching punch of Kowalski and Newport, two dedicated senior leaders and postseason experience throughout the entire lineup, the Barbs hope their shared laughter intertwines individual talent into a team powerhouse.
“Last year we were 5-5 in the conference and finished third,” Davis said. “This season, we’re going to be pushing for the conference championship. As long as we can keep people healthy, we will be right at the top. Hopefully, we can get back to the Elite Eight – who knows, if you get lucky and win a game at the end of the season, you could be in the Final Four and holding a trophy.
“I hate to put a big target on the kids’ back like that, but they have the talent, they have the experience and they’ve been there and done that. Now it’s up to them and whether they want to keep working harder and getting better.”