It was something Springville softball fans could see coming over the past several summers, but then when head coach Laura Riley was surprisingly not brought back heading into the 2021 campaign, all of a sudden could the Orioles actually keep their forward momentum going with a new coach?
Enter Joe Martin.
The Springville Athletic Director, football coach and softball assistant coach under Riley with vast knowledge of the program, stepped up to lead the Orioles to one of their greatest campaigns in school history.
Yeah, I guess things did work out after all, and they did with the added help of a lone senior superstar leader.
“As the assistant coach I knew that we brought back all the pieces from last year, but honestly not having a full season last year (due to COVID) hurt our ability to gain even more experience than we could have had normally,” said Martin, who by his mere presence made the transition easy for the girls, and the results followed as Springville posted their second-winningest summer in program history tallying a 23-13 overall record and were 15-9 in an absolutely loaded Tri-Rivers Conference West division race.
“We finished better than we anticipated from a record standpoint with 23 wins, the second-most wins in program history and the most in a season in almost 20 years. Having some older leadership and girls ‘buying in’ to what was something new to them, I believe were the two biggest factors that allowed them to have that success.”
The 23 wins were the most Springville softball has seen in 17 years, since the 2004 team won a program-record 24 games.
That success was keyed by the Orioles’ lone senior and team-leader, Libby Moore.
“Libby is the perfect example of what you look for in a program leader,” Martin said. “For me personally coming in the role I did the past two years, she was the glue that held the group together. Libby was basically the off-season coach this past winter/spring that allowed our team to be ready to go in the summer. She is a great role model for our younger players in the high school program and more importantly, the youth programs.
“Libby will leave a big hole on the diamond, but more importantly, off the field too.”
Moore, an All-State selection this summer, was the Orioles’ No. 1 pitcher throwing 145.2 innings with 128 strikeouts and a 2.11 earned run average pitching in 32 of the team’s 36 total games.
That was just in the circle.
At the plate Moore drilled softballs at a .367 clip with a team-high 42 runs batted in and 13 doubles.
Overall, Springville had a big year offensively, hitting .333 as a team led by another All-State standout in Morgan Nachazel, who was sensational hitting a team-best .438.
“I think we were close to where I thought we’d be offensively this year,” Martin said. “With our athleticism, I tried to get the girls to realize they had the ability to make teams react to us on offense with the ability to play small ball and long ball. We were very aggressive on the bases with both stealing and trying to take extra bases. The hard part was trying to ‘coach’ them to get in the habit so it became more instinct rather than being told.”
The Orioles had an impressive seven girls hit over .300 this past summer, as along with Nachazel and Moore Ashlynne Zaruba (.408), Grace Matus (.379), Nia Howard (.349), Savannah Nealman (.348) and Molly Stamp (.309) all gave the offense added depth while the team also mixed power and speed very well jacking seven home runs (led by two from Nachazel and Nealman) and swiping 114 bases (led by 22 from Matus).
Defensively, Martin also had a lot of options this past summer with players being able to field multiple positions.
“One thing we talked about at the very beginning of the year is not beating ourselves defensively by allowing teams to have ‘big’ innings,” he said. “If we could control those things, we would give ourselves a chance each game.
“We also had a lot of girls who could play multiple positions that allowed us to stay sharp without losing a step. The two big ones were Molly Stamp and Morgan Nachazel. Molly was a valuable asset by being able to play first base and finished the season playing some huge ball at shortstop. Morgan playing some catcher early in the season and allowed Grace Matus to rest her legs, which I think was huge for us.”
Howard patrolled the Oriole outfield as one of the league’s top centerfielders, and with everyone back but Moore, the Springville program could possibly break the school-record for wins in a season in 2022.
“Everyone has found a renewed enjoyment for the game of softball,” Martin said. “The focus in the off-season is going to need to be a priority, similar to the other activities they are involved in.
“That step has already been made as all of our varsity letter-winners have signed up to play in a Fall league on Sundays in Monticello. I really look forward to where this program can go next year.”