ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Seven is a good number…especially for the Rock Valley College softball team. The Golden Eagles will be going after their seventh straight National Championship this week in Syracuse, New York at the Junior College Division three level.
The Golden Eagles run on consecutive championships was paused last year by the pandemic making this trip to Nationals even more precious. The girls just kept hoping that this year’s event wouldn’t get canceled too.
“With Covid it means a lot more because we had to take it day-by-day,” said RVC pitcher and Hononegah graduate Ashton Melaas. “We weren’t sure of the opportunity again this year, so everyone’s really excited that we finally get to go.”
The Golden Eagles are the number one seed in the eight-team tournament field. As six-time champions they have a large target on their backs, but they say the pressure is actually off of them now.
“I feel that the most pressure is just getting there,” said RVC coach Darin Monroe. “Once you’re there if we were to get upset or if we were to lose we’re losing to one of the top teams in the country, so that’s the message that we have.”
Every Rock Valley team that’s gone to Nationals over the last eight years has been talented. Monroe says it’s hard to compare them, but he knows this much about this team.
“I would say that this team is as deep as we’ve ever been one through nine and then even some kids that we’ve got coming in off the bench.”
RVC’s record this season is 47-7. In the four-game regional tournament last week they outscored their opponents 56-5. RVC’s 522 runs scored this season is almost 100 runs more than any other team in the country has scored, and RVC’s team earned run average ranks third in the nation.
Winning at Nationals isn’t simply about talent. It’s about execution, bringing energy to the field, and being able to deal with the intensity of the National stage. Kirstin Fudge and Trinity Fry are the only two returning players from two years ago who have experienced that environment.
“You get a little bit of butterflies, but once you start playing and start playing your game you let that all go,” said Fudge.
The eight-team field at Nationals is very strong this year thanks to the addition of two at-large teams and the presence of three New York teams that on paper are loaded…Suffolk County, Herkimer, and Corning which is 34-1.
“I think it’s as good as it’s ever been,” said Monroe. “There’s a Corning team sitting out there that’s extremely talented. They’ve got a couple good pitchers inside the circle. They’re potent on the offensive side.”
RVC’s first game will be Thursday morning against the number eight seed Rainy River, Minnesota.