COLUMBIA — It was a season of new experiences for the Rock Bridge softball team.
A new head coach brought new goals. To realize these goals, she pushed her players to new levels of success. After an 11-year tenure as an assistant coach at Hickman, Janel Twehous, a former pitcher at William Woods, took over the Bruins' program this year.
Rock Bridge had been 22-6 in 2009 under Joe Henderson, and Twehous wanted to see the Bruins improve on that mark. They got there, along the way claiming the Class 4, District 9 championship, the first district title for the program.
Rock Bridge added a win in sectional play, beating host Rolla 5-2 on Wednesday to advance to the Class 4 state quarterfinals. The run ended there, though, with an 8-6 loss to Webb City on Saturday in Columbia, and the Bruins ended their season at 27-4.
Twehous said the district championship gave her the most satisfaction.
"It's the top win of course. It's my team now," she said. "It was a wonderful feeling."
The Bruins seniors were especially excited about the team's success. They have seen their talent and leadership take shape, especially this season.
"It was amazing. We won districts and that was the big hump for us, and everything on top of that was just gravy," senior third baseman Caroline Sicht said.
Twehous said she was especially proud of her seniors.
"They have been wonderful leaders on and off the field to my ladies. Their work ethic is strong, and their leadership will be missed greatly," Twehous said.
Senior and starting catcher Brianne Bond has been a driving force for the Bruins all season. She said she was thankful for the experiences she had this season.
"Being able to do this my senior year, and knowing every year we get better, I couldn't have asked for anything better from this team," she said.
Bond has been recruited to play softball for Wichita State next year. But many of the other seniors aren't sure they will be playing softball next year, making the Bruins' loss Saturday especially emotional.
"It was a day in the life of a Bruin for me, and I just tried to make all the plays I could," Sicht said.
Freshman Breanna Logan came on to pitch 6 1/3 innings of relief for the Bruins in Saturday's loss. Her dominanting performance reminded Twehous of what the Bruins will be capable of next season. This year's varsity roster featured six freshmen, and Twehous said there are some talented eighth-graders set to attend Rock Bridge next year.
"For the younger classmen, it's just the beginning," Twehous said.