All but three Ottawa varsity players have eligibility remaining.
Ottawa had seven varsity players that were either freshmen or sophomores this season.
First-year coach Joe Serna saw lots of growth from the whole team.
“We are excited about the returners next year,” Serna said following Ottawa’s 6-3 loss to Paola Tuesday in the regional semifinals in Ottawa.
“It was a big learning experience. I could not have asked for a better first year. They did everything I asked. Never questioned it. That is what it takes to be successful.
“They were starting to feel comfortable with me.”
Still not winning does not sit well with the Cyclones (9-8).
Ottawa had just three hits and struck out 12 times. But still had a chance late in the game.
“We have the talent,” Serna said. “Now is the time to work on that focus and mental part of the game. We gave them three or four runs we should not have.”
Paola took advantage of a couple of errors on a bunt play that gave the Panthers two runs.
“I applaud our girls effort, trying to get something done,” Serna said about that play. “I feel for Elizabeth Seimears. A senior pitcher who gave everything she had all season long.
“I wish we would have sent her out on a better note.”
Ottawa, which fell behind 6-0, scored two runs in the sixth inning to pull within 6-3. Amy Wilson’s hit was misplayed and two runs scored. She ended up on third base.
“They should not quit,” Serna said. “They have the potential in any inning to go off and put some runs on the board. They hung in there. Amy Wilson had a big hit for us. That was huge for us. Hopefully she can carry this over into next year and remember that play and build off that right from the start.”
Undefeated Paola was a good measuring stick for Serna.
“They have great softball players,” he said. “They are well coached. So to play with them the second go around says a lot about our girls.”
Serna’s aggressive approach began to sink in as the season progressed.
“They understand the philosophy,” Serna said. “We are heading in a good direction. The girls are getting on board with that.”
Serna said the returners need to play as much as possible this summer and work on different areas of their game during the winter months.
“They will see the fruits of their labor,” Serna said. “Next year could be a special year.
“We can get to Salina.”