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CEDAR RAPIDS — A bittersweet end wasn’t indicative of the journey.
A strong season and an impressive career for the Coe seniors came to a close with a disappointing finish at home.
The 11th-ranked Kohawks dropped consecutive games in the NCAA Division III softball regional Saturday at Clark Field. St. Thomas (Minn.) eliminated Coe with a 7-3 win, following the Kohawks’ 5-1 loss to Augustana (Ill.) earlier in the day.
The tough conclusion doesn’t put a damper on what the Kohawks have achieved the last four years. These seniors have helped the program qualify for four straight regional appearances, two straight Iowa Conference regular season titles and our IIAC postseason tournament runner-up finishes.
“They’ve meant a lot,” Coe Coach Bob Timmons said. “They learned, now they have taught and hopefully it will continue to go on. They are a good group of young ladies. They spent a lot of time and worked very hard over the last four years.”
They were able to cap their careers on their home field in front of the supporters who have witnessed their feats. Few players get that experience.
“In that sense, it was OK to end here,” said senior Abby Flannagan, who set Coe career records in home runs, RBIs, total bases, walks and putouts. “Obviously, it didn’t end where we wanted to end.”
Many of the players were visually emotional after the awards ceremony and before some joined family members. Even if the result was hard to handle, it doesn’t affect Danielle Schlotterbeck’s “awesome” time at Coe.
“The years have been great,” Schlotterbeck said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. I wouldn’t change the people I played with either.”
The impact extended beyond stats, wins and championships. The entered the program with high expectations and delivered. They became leaders, including playing with pain. Flannagan continued her role as catcher with leg problems and Maddison Woodruff (21-3) pitched through a torn labrum in her throwing shoulder most of the season.
“They showed a lot of courage and a lot of leadership in what they were doing,” Timmons said. “It meant something to them that’s what is special about those kids.”
It was just the second time Coe (36-10) multiple games in the same day this season. The Kohawks didn’t generate much offense, despite Flannagan hitting a solo home run in the top of the first for Coe’s lone run Saturday morning against the Vikings, who received two home runs and four RBIs from their No. 8 and No. 9 batters Christina Pagan and Sarah Hintz.
The bats remained silent against a potent St. Thomas (38-6) squad powered by former Dubuque Wahlert prep Breezy Bannon on the mound and former Des Moines Roosevelt prep Erin Mussett, who had a three-run home run in the third for a 5-0 lead. She finished with four RBIs.
Schlotterbeck got Coe on the board with a solo home run well over the center-field fence in the elimination game. She hoped it would provide a spark.
“I thought we could come back,” Schlotterbeck said. “It just didn’t happen.”
The Tommies’ Brenna Walek increased the lead with a two-run homer the next inning. The Kohawks didn’t answer until down to their final out in the seventh when Mallory McArtor’s double to right-center field scored Gretchen Lilienthal and Alison Givens.
“There wasn’t any quit in them,” Timmons said. “They fought to the last out. ... I also said don’t hang your heads. You’ve accomplished a lot, especially the seniors.”
Augustana and St. Thomas will play for the championship with the first of two possible title games at 10 a.m. Augustana just needs one win to advance to the super regional, while St. Thomas needs to win two straight.
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