OXFORD — The most key component to Clear Creek Amana’s offseason softball workouts hasn’t been pitching.
Or hitting. Or fielding.
It has been the constuction of a team. A true team.
“The last couple years, we’ve struggled in getting along as a team,” said Coach Jim White. “People were worried about individual concerns.”
The me-first attitude took its toll. For the first time since the mid-1990s, the Clippers ended back-to-back seasons short of the state tournament. Both times, Davenport Assumption tripped them in regional play.
“It’s been very frustrating, working so hard and not getting what we want, then having to wait a year, then another year,” said Melissa Walls, a senior who will start at shortstop for the fifth year this summer.
“Everybody was in the outfield crying (after last year’s regional final),” said Ashley Akers, a senior outfielder. “(Falling short) has been really, really hard.”
It was a bitter ending to what had been a terrific season. CCA finished 35-5 and won the final championship of the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference.
Now the Clippers reside in the Wamac Conference.
New home. New attitude? Looks that way so far.
“In the past, we had a lot of people thinking about themselves.,” Akers said. “Now, in practice, we pick two people each day, and tell them have their backs.”
“I think it’s helping.”
Here’s another boost: CCA has talent. Loads of it.
Eight starters return, including five that have earned all-state accolades. Junior third baseman Katy Sexton is a two-time 3A first-team selection and was a 2008 Elite pick. Akers and Walls were second-teamers last year, as was Michaela Fligg, who likely will split pitching and first-base duties with Moriah Morrisey (a 2007 all-stater).
“We have talented kids,” White said. “It looks like the same type of team we’ve put on the field before.”
White is in his 15th season at CCA, where he has posted a 639-107 record. The current group has been a handful, but White says it has made him a better coach.
“There were times that I almost gave up on them, and I’m glad I didn’t,” he said. “We’ve had amazing practices (so far this season).”
“We have returners that haven’t done what they’ve wanted the last couple years. They’ve fallen short of their goals. I think they’ve learned that if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they’ll get the same result.”
The Clippers will be considered one of the teams to beat in Class 3A this season.
If they truly become a team.
“I honestly think we’re capable of anything we put our minds to,” Akers said.