Four years ago Heart River softball went through the growing pains of a first-year program, but these days, they’re built to be contenders. Coach Kendra Schillo and her group of juniors are proving patience pays off.
In its first season, Heart River was just a team of seventh graders learning the game, and the results weren’t pretty.
“Our first year we didn’t even win a game,” junior catcher Mattea Binstock said.
They were determined to get better–and they did.
“To come back our second year winning two games,” Binstock said, “and then the third year, we went to state. No one would have guessed that we would have made it.”
“The expectation used to be, ‘Gosh, I hope we can win a couple games.’ Now it’s State,” Schillo said. “This is our first year coming back being undefeated in the regular season last year.”
After such a dominant showing, Schillo says her athletes are ready to get even better when it comes to the state tournament.
“They’ve gotten a taste of it,” Schillo said, “and they’ve been able to impart that to the younger ones, and it just makes them want it more.”
Six juniors will lead the way for the Cougars, including All-State pitcher Abby Kessel and All-Region catcher Mattea Binstock.
“That tandem–they’ve been playing since seventh grade,” Schillo said, “They’ve been a part of this for our fifth year. Back when we didn’t win a game, they’re still a part of this, so we will definitely lean on them.”
Heart River used to be an underdog. Now, they’re ready to be top dog.
“We’re going to have a target on our back,” Schillo said. “It’s really interesting to be the team everyone else wants to come after. We’re going to get everybody’s best game.”
Heart River opens the 2019 season at home April 2 against Harvey/Wells County.