Diamond teams finished on promising note
A longer-than-usual winter wreaked early havoc on softball and baseball schedules throughout the area, but it couldn’t completely ruin Moraine Valley College’s on-field exploits.
Once play got underway in earnest, the Cyclones softball squad posted a 22-17 ledger and went 8-4 in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference, which was good for a runner-up finish in the league standings. Included among the season highlights was a nine-game win streak.
Carly Trinley captured ISCC Player of the Year honors after batting .545 in conference action with an .841 slugging percentage. Other Moraine athletes chosen for the all-conference first team were Amie Raynor (.397 average; .450 in the ISCC) and Jenny Vanek (.295; .356 in conference). Second-team picks were Ari Bulthuis (.382; .357 in conference) and Dana Cummings.
“This is one of the most fun teams I’ve had in my coaching career,” Cyclones boss Mike Veen said. “I wish this was a four-year institution [because] I didn’t want to see the season end.
“We were lucky we got in the number of games we did. Not only that, but there is real talent on the team. It’s hard to see the sophomores go.”
Vanek intends to continue playing softball at North Central College next season, while Raynor will head to Aurora University. Trinley is expected to return to Moraine for the 2015 campaign, and Veen has some recruits in mind to further develop his squad.
The Cyclones had some periods of struggle on the diamond, but they made strides and should have an increased level of confidence heading into 2015.
Moraine wound up 9-17 overall and 5-10 within the ISCC while performing with a freshman-dominated roster. Bobby Neylon earned a nod to the all-conference first team, while Sheamus Brennan and Mike Levigne were second-team selections.
Also contributing at various times were sophomore catcher Ryan Gyrion, shortstop Jason Hine and Stagg alumnus Mike Rankin, who batted over .300.
“We got a lot out of playing,” Cyclones coach Cole Farmer said. “Our guys had to learn how to play college ball because it’s different from high school.
“They learned and took away a lot from this season, making them better ballplayers. We battled all year and persevered.”
Levigne, who Farmer says possesses the “it” factor, is transferring and expects to play ball for the University of Antelope Valley (Calif.) next spring. Departing, too, will be Farmer himself after a three-year stay at Moraine, the last two of which were spent as head coach.
“I had a blast here,” said Farmer, who will pursue other career avenues. “Moraine Valley was the right fit when I took the role.
“I want to thank [athletic director] Bill Finn for letting me coach such a large program [and] I want to thank everyone [else], especially my co-workers. I couldn’t do it without their help and support. It’s something I’ll never forget.
“It was an honor to be here and create great contacts. Moraine Valley will help me in my future career.”
The Cyclones played some of their best tennis of the season at last week’s National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Tournament in Plano, Texas, even earning some points against top-level competition.
Facing athletes from around the country, Moraine finished 23rd among 27 teams. Leading the Cyclones’ charge was No. 3 singles player Tim Stewart, who scored a 6-2, 6-2 first-round victory over an opponent from the New Mexico Military Institute. The Stagg grad absorbed a second-round loss but still wound up in the top 16.
“This was the best I’ve seen him play all season,” Moraine coach Ben Thompson said of Stewart.
Kevin Karczynski played well at No. 1 singles before losing his opening match, but he bounced back to win in the consolation round. Karczynski advanced into the semifinals, but he was unable to compete there because the Cyclones were scheduled for a flight back home at that time.
Karczynski paired with Mike Broderick to take the first set of their No. 1 doubles match versus Temple College, but they could not follow up their 6-3 triumph with another and fell in three sets.
Sophomore Brad Smith was slowed by an injury, but he still played at both third-singles and No. 2 doubles along with Stewart. Even with Smith having to use his less-dominant left hand in the latter match, he and Stewart battled into a third set before suffering a defeat.
Broderick (No. 2 singles), Ryan Adamski (No. 5) and Christian Lagunas (No. 6) also represented Moraine at nationals, as did the third-doubles pair of Bryan Jimenez and Alec Mikes. Jimenez-Mikes dropped a tiebreaker.
“Everyone stepped up at nationals and played well,” Thompson said. “I’m looking forward to [working with] all the freshmen who come back next year because of this experience.”