Jaden Phelps of Jonathan Alder slides safely into third base during the recent Division II district championship game against Lakewood. Phelps was a key member of a young Alder squad that posted a 22-4 record. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
There are often different reactions by various teams when a season comes to an end.
Some athletes act with great disappointment, others go farther by shedding tears because they’re devastated the campaign and their associations with teammates have come to an end.
It’s even more difficult for a lot of seniors, knowing their school athletic careers have come to an end.
There are even instances, although rare, when athletes feel a sense of relief when the season comes to an end.
One team that recently fell under the tears category is the softball squad from Jonathan Alder High School.
Like many teams, the Lady Pioneers may not have known what to expect during the 2021 season.
After all, Alder missed the 2020 campaign (like everyone else did) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Alder lost the opportunity to defend its 2019 Division II state championship.
There were a large number of veteran players returning from that team and I don’t have any doubts JA would have repeated as state champs a year ago.
Fast forward to the start of the 2021 season.
Veteran head coach Dave McGrew had junior pitcher Marlee Jacobs back in the fold.
As a freshman, she helped lead Alder to the 2019 state title.
She was the same reliable hurler this spring, posting a 20-2 mark and a 0.68 earned-run average.
Junior Danielle Robbins was a veteran who moved from the outfield in 2019 to second base this year.
Robbins was a pain in the ERA for opposing pitchers with a .505 batting average during the recently-completed season.
A slap hit for her was as good as a double with her ability to swipe 21 bases.
After that, there were a lot of new names and faces, including several freshmen.
First-year high school players Kiersten Dolby, Shanna Higgins, Evan Platfoot and Lilly Walker, among others, made huge contributions to a senior-less squad.
Dolby sizzled at the plate with a .468 batting average, one homer and 25 RBIs.
Higgins finished with a .378 mark and drove in 12 runs.
Platfoot came through with a .385 batting average and finished with seven ribbies.
Walker saw more playing time late in the season.
She hit .357 and used her speed on the base paths to tally 14 runs in a like number of games.
Another player from the 2019 squad, junior Jaden Phelps, advanced her skills.
She was used primarily as a pitcher and flex-type player two years ago.
This year, she claimed the first base spot for her own and batted .348 with 19 RBIs.
Her defensive work was also strong.
Despite the youth, the 2021 campaign wasn’t really a rebuild for the Lady Pioneers.
It was more of a reload.
They won the Kenton Trail Division of the Central Buckeye Conference with a 15-1 record.
JA finished the season with an overall mark of 22-4 and the Division II district runner-up trophy.
That second-place finish in the tournament would suit a lot of teams.
Not, however, the Lady Pioneers.
Watching McGrew meet with his team a little more than a week ago after their district loss to Lakewood, I saw plenty of tears.
What I heard, though, was much more important.
Several players spoke up in fierce, determined tones.
They all vowed to work hard in the off-season and return in 2022 to reclaim their district and beyond accolades.
I liked seeing that grit from a young team that has come to fully understand the stellar tradition of Alder softball.
The banners on the outfield fence attest to what the program has accomplished over five of the past seven seasons.
Add up the wins and losses from those campaigns and the record is something like 100-19.
I won’t be surprised to see the Lady Pioneers win the district next year.
After that, who knows?
Don’t be astonished, however, if it doesn’t include a return trip to the state.
tournament in Akron.