The pain and disappointment of an unfinished season is a fresh wound for the Ottawa University softball team.
Ottawa softball coach Jay Kahnt said the team was busy preparing for the conference opener and the next moment the season was canceled.
“We got blindsided,” Kahnt said. “It hit us all at once. There was no preparing yourself. It was boom, we are done.”
The squad found out on a Thursday night the KCAC opener for the next day was on hold. That Friday, they had a quick team meeting and dispersed for spring break, fully expecting to finish the season.
“There was no closure in anyway for those kids,” Kahnt said. “We did not get to hold a team meeting after everything got finalized.”
Senior Day prep
The squad would be preparing for senior day next Saturday to honor nine seniors. Kahnt said that is a special day.
“For them to not get to enjoy that special recognition — they get to celebrate that with their team — is gut-wrenching,” he said. “They have been playing for 16 or 17 years. To not have that one special day when you get honored, it is really tough. You are being honored for everything you went through to get to this point. You want to celebrate your senior day with your teammates, parents and family. There is no way to give that back to them.”
There are plans to honor the seniors in a special way, Kahnt said. Those plans may include a special ceremony at the fall alumni game or bring them back for the 2021 senior day celebration.
“You feel bad for them,” Kahnt said. “We are all trying to figure out what is the next step. We are trying to honor the seniors through social media.”
Kahnt said the seniors have been the backbone of the program.
“They have done so many great things for us,” he said. “They were a part of some special times. It was a great group of seniors that had bought into the program. They were great leaders and great people. They were doing things the right way. They had great character.”
He said they were robbed of finishing a possible championship season and etching their own legacy.
“They don’t get to enjoy the journey,” Kahnt said. “The full journey with a team is what makes it special. A couple of our seniors were here for four years and were part of the World Series team, but you want your own legacy. You want your legacy to be something you did in your senior year. The seniors that are coming back, they don’t get to play with this team again.”
A few seniors will return for the 2020-21 season, Kahnt said.
“The ones that had a career path already and graduate in May and move on to get a job, you feel terrible for them,” he said. “A couple are looking to go into grad school.”
Kahnt said the 2020 team members had a possible championship run in them.
“We liked our chances because nobody in our conference was running away from anybody with their nonconference (play),” he said. “We knew there were four or five teams capable of winning it. We thought we could play with any of them. To not get the opportunity hurts. They were excited to get the conference season going, knowing this could be one of those special years.”
Ottawa compiled a 12-9 record in nonconference games. Kahnt said six losses came to ranked teams and NCAA Div. II programs.
“Those early tough games were starting to pay dividends,” Kahnt said. “We were ready for conference to start. We had our line-up figured out. Our pitching was pitching pretty well. We were starting to hit our stride.”
The coaches and players recently had a Zoom meeting, their first time together since leaving for spring break a month ago.
“It was good to see each other,” Kahnt said. “It was good to interact with them and see their faces. It allowed us to talk a little bit and give updates on how things are going. Fill them in what the next chapter is. We did not get a chance to do exit interviews.”
Kahnt said it was good for the players to talk to each other as they experience these uncertain times.
“It was helpful for them,” he said. “It gets them back to that family feeling. We are in this together. We can help each other heal and help each other move on.”