COLUMBIA CITY — Though Columbia City’s softball team didn’t come out on top of the sectional championship game, the Eagles had a season to be proud of.
Columbia City ended the year with an 18-5 record, falling 1-0 in an extra-inning standoff with Bellmont.
The Braves, which fell in regional action last weekend, were ranked third in the state and had a stellar pitcher who kept the Eagles off base for the whole game.
“We tried multiple ways to put the ball in play,” head coach Dan Weigold said. “We went after her. We went out there swinging. The 1-0 games are great, I just want to be on the other side of that.”
Neither team scored until Bellmont lobbed a perfect hit over the mitt of a Columbia City defensive player, scoring the game-winning run. Despite the loss, Weigold was proud of his team.
“We didn’t make mistakes, they just beat us on a hit,” Weigold said. “We fought to the death and kept fighting all the way through. They got a break, it wasn’t because of an error — and it won the game for them.”
The Eagles posted one of their best records in recent years with 18 wins, beating teams such as Homestead, Bishop Dwenger and Mishawaka.
“We beat teams we’ve had trouble with in the past,” Weigold said. “It’s been a spectacular year — so much fun.”
Even with all the wins, four of the Eagles’ five losses came from Northeast 8 opponents, proving how competitive the conference was.
“The NE8 is a son-of-a-gun,” Weigold said. “On any given night, any team in the NE8 can get you.”
Three of those top NE8 teams were in the Eagles’ sectional, which also included Norwell. Columbia City beat the Knights in the semifinal game at the Mississinewa sectional.
The team sported three seniors, who, though they didn’t garner significant playing time, were key in the team’s success.
“Even though the seniors didn’t play a lot, they were leaders from the dugout,” Weigold said.
The seniors could have gone the other way, being upset about playing time, but Weigold said they continued to stay positive and supportive of their younger teammates.
“This group of seniors is truly special,” Weigold said. “This year was so difficult in that we had a lot of very talented young ladies.”
The talent carried down through the junior varsity team, which finished with a 14-2 record, blowing out many of its opponents.
“We’re returning almost everybody, but we are going to miss that senior leadership. They led by example of how you treat people,” Weigold said. “All three treated the younger players with great respect. This team was truly a team.”
Pitcher Natalie Haselby stepped into a more prominent role in the pitcher’s circle this year after Brooke Ebersole faced injury. In the sectional title game, she worked her way out of several 3-0 counts.
“She is a battler,” Weigold said. “Natalie stepped up and worked all summer, fall and winter, and developed some pitches that were amazing. Brooke busted her tail, it made me sick that she got hurt. Natalie stepped up and did great things for us. I was blessed with two very good pitchers.”
There are quality pitchers, and other players, coming up through the youth programs as well.
“This group has set the standard pretty high right now,” Weigold said.