Going into the start of the academic year in August 2022, the St. Ambrose University softball found themselves in a position without a head coach.
When talking to senior infielder Maria Provenzano about the coaching change, she said, “Having all fall without a head coach put a lot of responsibility and accountability on our team to hold ourselves to a high standard and keep pushing. I think that was what really made our group of girls so tight-knit. We all knew if we didn’t work hard our spring season would not end up in our favor. DoniRae did an amazing job stepping up and being our interim coach as well in the fall. Going into the spring season with a new coach was kinda scary, as much as we didn’t know about his coaching style, he didn’t know our personalities or abilities on the field. I really enjoyed Coach and everything he had to offer to this program. His knowledge not only about softball but player mental health, the overall psychology of the game, and him being a former student-athlete as well is what makes him stand out from other coaches. His happy personality helps remind you that the game is supposed to be fun, which is very easy to forget.”
Coach John Kelly giving the team some encouragement from the dugout during a game in Florida. Photo courtesy of Theresa Ralfs.
For just over the first half of the spring season, the Bees faced non-conference opponents until they came back from a spring break trip in Florida. Then the Bees would face a tough conference scheduled for the remainder of the season with two non-conference opponents in the mix.
The St. Ambrose University softball team had a decent season going into the conference tournament. The Bees sit at an overall record of 25-23 and with a 12-8 record in conference play during the regular season.
This put them in a position to be placed 5th in the conference going into the conference tournament that took place May 4-6 in Crown Point, Indiana.
In the first game of the tournament, the Bees faced fourth-seed Roosevelt University. In the game, Roosevelt University took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Roosevelt University kept the lead the entire game until the Bees tried to fight back in the 7th inning. The Bee’s last-inning rally didn’t go how they wanted, just falling short to Roosevelt University with a final score of 3-4 in their first elimination in the tournament.
In the second game of the tournament, the Bees faced the #8 seed, Indiana University-South Bend. The bees found themselves down again at the start of the game, but continued to fight back the entire game, but came up short again. The final being 5-7, which ended the season for the Bees.
The Bees finished the season with a 25-25 record overall.
With it being the end for the three seniors on the team, Provenzano, Erica Ralfs, and Kayla Stenger, that means that their careers as a Bee are over. As Provenzano reflected on her years on the team, she stated, “Transferring into this program and getting the opportunity to continue my softball career has been a major blessing. I have made lifelong friendships and unforgettable memories over the past two years here.”
When looking back at the season, Provenzano said, “We were all hungry for wins. One thing I am very proud of our team for is we never gave up. Each and every game was a fight and battle to the very last out. Me personally, I knew this was my last year playing and I wanted to leave everything out on the field and play with no regrets. For the team, I think we all played for each other which helped motivate us. I think this year we also tried to keep the game fun as I said before. Just living in the moment, not worrying about your last at-bat or an error that was made. We definitely had a few games just not fall our way this year and I’m super proud of the way this team bounced back and was eager to get the next win.”
For the rest of the team, it means that they get a chance to look forward to making the changes that might be needed for next season.