Columbus High softball coach Kelsey Newman had nothing but pride for the way her group ended the season at the district tournament last month.
Following a 3-27 six weeks of play, the Discoverers dropped a close 5-2 loss to Omaha Marian, an eventual state tournament team, defeated Omaha Bryan 12-0 then came up short 9-6 to Omaha Burke.
A four-run sixth inning by Burke in a 5-5 tie was the death knell for the CHS season.
On a list of 30 games, three results among what turned out to be a whole bunch of losses seems immaterial.
Not to Newman. She saw the end to what was an unexpectedly challenging year as evidence for hope. While lost seasons always give birth to a tendency to try and find any kind of positive, no matter how insignificant, Newman felt her belief was confirmed by opposing coaches when it was all over.
"One coach told me we made him anxious," Newman said. "It’s rewarding when the coaches from the other team come up to you and tell you how well us coaches and the girls have done this year, saying that our record doesn’t show who we are and that people should be scared of Columbus in the next few years to come."
Time will tell if those fears are warranted. For much of 2019, there was no reason for concern when opponents saw Columbus up next on the schedule.
The Discoverers lost 17 in a row at one point while allowing at least six runs in 16 of those 17, only scoring six or more themselves three times. Once, they scored 13 and still lost.
Such was the case for a squad that Newman said struggled mightily with putting it all together at the same time. When Columbus pitched well, the bats were silent. When the bats were popping, there were too many runs against to try and match.
Scores for the four wins show as much: 8-5, 10-6, 10-1 and 12-0. One of those, a 10-6 win over Lincoln Southeast in the latter half of a doubleheader, started with a 10-0 loss in Game 1 before the bounce back and a 7-3 lead.
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In the time between the previous win and that night, almost exactly a month, Columbus had been beaten by seven runs or more eight times. For Newman, the response in Game 2 was a sign of growth.
But for a program still installing the foundation, it's a brick-by-brick process. CHS lost six in a row afterward before winning two of the final seven.
The last three contests placed another brick in the structure - hanging with a state tournament team, easily winning a game then coming back in another before ultimately falling short.
"We played probably the best we have all season, and that's all that matters. It was the dance. Everything that led up to it was practice. You have to perform at the dance, and I thought we did," Newman said. "I couldn't be more proud to have coached these girls because we didn't give up."
The girls also endured a tough couple of months with the right attitude and the right chemistry. Newman, herself a former Shamrock who played for CHS softball then went on to a college career at Dakota Wesleyan, said it was the first team she was ever a part of that was without drama.
Sometimes, it can be easy to stick together when it seems the whole world is against you and the only people you can trust are in your locker room. Newman said that wasn't the case.
Her team may not have won very much, but it built a genuine culture necessary for winning to eventually take place. Now the trick is to maintain and develop that culture further.
"Everybody played their part, and we showed our true grit," Newman said. "We showed what Columbus High is all about."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.