Even in defeat, Jeeps relish in season’s turnaround

From Herald Staff Reports

When Northeast Dubois softball coach Larry Wineinger addressed his team after the Jeeps’ Class 1A sectional championship against Tecumseh on Wednesday in Dubois, the theme of his talk was all-encompassing.


In lieu of focusing directly on the 9-1 setback to the Braves that dissolved the Jeeps’ postseason hopes, Wineinger instead shed light on the full spectrum: After stumbling through a six-game losing streak to start the season, the Jeeps (6-15) became competitive in the spring’s latter half, illustrated by a first-round sectional win and a championship appearance the coach deemed competitive.

“After the game was over I said, ”˜Look how much we’ve improved from the very first two, three games of the season till the end of the season.’ We were very competitive the last 10 games of the season,” Wineinger said. “We were losing by maybe one, two runs a game, and at the beginning of the season we were getting run-ruled a lot of times. That’s just a sign of improvement, and they had an attitude change from the very first (game) to the end of the season, too.”

After Tecumseh’s Tiffany Summers socked a two-run homer in the top of the first inning, the Jeeps promptly searched for retaliation. Taryn Friedman drew a walk and Michelle Seitz singled. Kendra Jacob sacrificed the runners to second and third, but a line drive turned into a double play that ended the inning.

The Jeeps earned their lone run in the fifth inning, trailing 7-0. Northeast Dubois’ lone senior, Alexis Zehr, instigated the rally. Zehr singled, advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a fielder’s choice before scoring on a throwing error.

Zehr’s seasonal strides mirrored those of the group altogether, Wineinger said.

“She really got better as the year went on,” Wineinger said of Zehr. “We’re going to have to replace a good center fielder next year, and that’s somebody that’s hard to replace.”

Meanwhile, Jacob (6-9) went the distance for Northeast Dubois, allowing seven hits and walking two.

Wineinger also lauded the Jeeps’ readiness at the plate. They struck out four times Wednesday against Summers, Tecumseh’s junior ace, a significant improvement from when the Jeeps and Braves played last month.

“After the game I said, ”˜Do you know how many times we struck out the first time?’ and they said, ”˜No, how many times?’ and I said, ”˜Well, 10 or 11.’ That’s an improvement,” Wineinger said. “We put the bat on the ball, put the ball in play, and that’s about all you can ask when you play a good team like Tecumseh.”

The prospect of reaching the sectional championship might have looked dim in the season’s early going, but overcoming that diversity is what ultimately defined the group, Wineinger said.

“They got together and they talked and said what they needed to do to get better, and that’s what they accomplished,” Wineinger said of the Jeeps’ late-season turnaround. “We got to be competitive, and that’s all you can ask from a bunch of girls, is to be competitive and play hard, and that’s what they ended up doing.”

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