*UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify that the second game against Central Methodist is scheduled to will resume April 2.
COLUMBIA — The Stephens College softball team crowded together next to the chain link fence by the dugout, eating snacks out of a cooler and laughing between bites.
Stephens players remained enthusiastic and chanted throughout the team's doubleheader against No. 18 Central Methodist University at Cosmo Park on Wednesday evening. The Stars dropped the first of two games to the Eagles, 9-0 in five innings.*The second game was suspended; it is scheduled to resume April 2, picking up in the bottom in the third inning with a score of 13-0 in favor of Central Methodist, according to an email sent by Adam Samson, sports information director at Stephens. The Stars retain a 2-12 record..Despite the setbacks, Stephens players continued to support each other.
Players stood on the bench, clapping and frequently yelling, "Know you can!"
Whenever freshman outfielder Kimberly Doman was up to bat, she could hear her teammates' encouragement, "Come on, Kimbo Slice!"
In coach Tracy Dean's first season in charge, her players have taught her about positivity as she has taught them about softball.
"I don't have to tell them to be energetic and happy," Dean said. "It just kind of happens, even when the scoreboard is so lopsided. They still keep a good attitude, which is pretty much the best thing a coach could ask for."
Senior pitcher Emily Park started game one for Stephens and gave up eight runs. She still smiled as she handed the ball off to junior Kaitlynn Rasmussen, who finished out the fifth inning to end the game.
"Central Methodist is ranked Top 20 in the country," Dean said. "So, just the fact that we were staying with them for part of the first game and a little bit through the second game without having our number one pitcher available was good."
The support for Stephens extends beyond its own dugout. Stephens freshman Staci Howard's parents never miss a home game, even if it means driving about an hour from their home in Russellville. Staci Howard's mother, Donna Howard, is encouraged by the camaraderie she sees on the Stephens softball team.
"They seem to support each other and cheer each other on," Howard said. "Even when the count is three balls and one strike, they're like, 'Come on, you can do this.'"
At the end of the third inning of the second game, the Eagles led 13-0. Central Methodist had gone through their batting order twice by the top of the third. Their hitting included a two-run home run from sophomore Madi Watson. As Watson rounded the bases, the Eagles flooded out of their dugout to greet her at home plate. Simultaneously, Stars from the infield and outfield sprinted to the mound to high-five their pitcher, sophomore Emma Steele.
Both teams agreed to end the game after the top of the third inning. Dean huddled her players by the dugout before going to shake hands with Central Methodist to give them one last instruction: (cheer) "Central Methodist and two claps," she said.
Her players followed suit. Not that they needed their coach to tell them to cheer.
"Cent-ral Meth-o-dist," they clapped in unison.
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