This was beyond expectation, and beyond painful.
This was the story for many Indiana 2020 high school spring sports, and it was particularly difficult for Cathedral High School softball.
“We were just heartbroken, all of us, that we weren’t able to see them out,” Irish assistant softball coach Linda Bamrick said.
Irish softball, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by Covid-19 regulations – a stunning end for what was to have been a promising final season for one of the most memorable senior classes in program history.
“We just had such high aspirations for this spring that they had been working toward since they entered the halls of Cathedral,” Bamrick said. “They just were great individuals both on and off the field. They pursued excellence in all that they did.
“They were likeable kids. They were respectful. They worked extremely hard. They were well-received by so many individuals at school: peers, teachers, coaching staff, Cathedral parents outside the program. Words can’t describe what they’ve meant to all of us.”
While Irish softball long has been a winning program, it has improved dramatically in recent seasons under Head Coach Tony Matthews and Bamrick. That improvement has been particularly notable from 2017 to present. The Irish advanced to the semi-state semifinals in 2019, and were poised for a deep run this postseason.
The senior class featured nine players, six of whom had been starters or key contributors essentially since their freshman season.
“I’ve been in coaching a long time and it’s always tough to say goodbye to seniors when you’ve followed a group all the way through,” Bamrick said. “But this group, there was something really, really special.”
The six core seniors:
*Grace Lorsung, catcher. Considered the state’s top senior softball player in 2020, Lorsung was a three-time All-City and two-time All-State selection who will play collegiately at Indiana University. She also was a Valedictorian who hit .485 with 25 career home runs, 33 doubles and 114 runs batted in. “She’s just unbelievable – her drive,” Bamrick said. “She’s the epitome of a leader. Even though she’s vocal, she’s also very humble and unassuming. She just gets the job done.” Bamrick said Lorsung also stood out for the time she spent mentoring young players in the Indiana Magic Gold 18u program. “She’s the total package,” Bamrick said.
*Mia Dittoe, shortstop. A two-time All-City selection who played on the Indiana Magic Gold 18u team, she will play collegiately at College of Charleston. She hit .361 for her career with four home runs, 17 doubles and 72 runs batted in – and was emerging as a vocal leader. “She was really making positive strides,” Bamrick said of Dittoe, who began her career at Cathedral as a centerfielder before moving to shortstop. “She’s going to be very versatile at the next level. She has that knack for the game.”
*Annika Garwood, pitcher. A three-time All-City selection who battled injuries as a sophomore and junior, she will play collegiately at DePauw University. She also plays first base and is a strong power hitter who went 31-20 as a pitcher in three seasons with 287 strikeouts. She also hit .438 with nine home runs, 20 doubles and 63 runs batted in. “We were really excited about her senior year,” Bamrick said of Garwood. “She came into the season in the best shape possible. She was throwing the ball in the offseason better than I’ve seen in her whole career at Cathedral. That was really frustrating because she was in prime shape for going out on top.”
*Emily Timberman, third base. She hit .405 for her career with 14 home runs, 16 doubles and 63 runs batted in. “She was someone who every single year got more confident,” Bamrick said. “Her numbers kept increasing in terms of batting average, home runs … everything.”
*Andi Manship, right field/pitcher. A Salutatorian, she finished her career with three home runs, 10 doubles and 34 runs batted in and played a key role as a pitcher at key times; she was the winning pitcher in the Irish’s 2019 6-3 regional victory over Mount Vernon. “She was injured entering her freshman year, and moved away from pitching for a while because of injuries,” Bamrick said. “She had to get back to that pace. She really came through for us the last two postseasons when Annika went down. She’s another young lady who loves the competition.”
*Emily Veigel, left field. A versatile player who played multiple roles throughout her career, Veigel according to Bamrick was a “solid, fundamentally sound player. In pressure situations, we could always count on her to pull through. She’s a great young lady to coach.”
And while the group entered Cathedral as immediate contributors, Bamrick said what made them stand out was they were never satisfied.
“They worked hard and not just individually, but collectively on trusting each other, believing in each other, team chemistry, accountability,” Bamrick said. “They held each other to such a high standard. None of us wanted to disappoint each other.”
The senior class also featured three players entering their first varsity season: outfielder Hannah Miller, second baseman Tessa Beesley and Lily Wagoner.
“They’re very similar in their roles with the program, and they’re the kind of people you really want to have in the program,” Bamrick said “They’re coachable. They’re respectful. They buy into team success. They’re happy to do their part, whether it’s playing a few innings in the field, pinch-running … They’re extremely positive in terms of attitudes and what’s best for the team.”
And while the players’ season of hope ended before it began, Bamrick said the program’s coaches and program as a whole “is unbelievable proud of them.”
“Tony and I both … it’s hard to talk about,” Bamrick said. “People use the word family a lot, but emotionally speaking this really was a family in every sense of the word. It feels more like a personal loss to have something within your reach and have circumstances out of your control not allow you to see how it would play out.
“But these girls are so resilient. They’re going to have very bright futures, whether it’s playing at the collegiate level, getting their degrees, going to medical school … they’re going to continue their legacy of giving back to others and doing their very best because they believe in it and because they know it’s right.”