Before the Lyons softball team took the field Friday night, they took a moment to celebrate their seniors, and their parents. Seniors Jazmyn Enny, Avery Joy, Shantel Koester, and Hannah Schweiger, played their final regular season home game. The Lions came out determined to send the seniors out with a win. The girls dominated the contest from start to finish. Scoring five runs in the first inning they cruised to a 14-3 win versus Valley to finish a remarkable regular season at 13-3. Their season is far from over.
For Joy, it was not only her first experience playing high school softball, it was the first time playing since grade school. The reshuffling of the volleyball season to the spring created an opportunity for Joy. Starting at left field the entire year, Joy has been a welcomed addition, adding depth at a position of need.
For Koester, Schweiger, and Enny, all four year letter winners, and four year starters, their final season has been one to remember. As freshmen and sophomores the three suffered the growing pains left behind from several years without much youth softball in town. The 2013 floods saw the destruction of the town’s fields in both Bohn and Meadow (Johnson) park. Summer’s normally filled with the sounds of youth sports have been replaced with rumble of heavy equipment. This fall marks the return of the ball fields in Bohn park, and thanks to these seniors, a legacy of championship level play in Lyons.
As an all conference pitcher, in a tough league, Koester has posted 244 career strikeouts and 23 wins. While her pitching keeps the Lions close in every contest, her batting often pushes them to victory. With a career .432 batting average and over 100 career hits, Koester is as solid at the plate as she is in the circle. The flexibility that Koester has shown this year to do whatever her team needs her to do, including playing centerfield when not pitching, reflects the attitude of this team. Speaking about her experiences playing at Lyons Koester said, “My freshmen year we didn’t win very many games. We gradually got better. It’s been really fun playing with Lyons. They made my senior year amazing.” And about heading into the state tournament Koester said that, “I would love to host state. Lyons have never hosted. I think we need to come out with our bats. Score runs early and our defense needs to be clean.”
The final year for Schweiger has proven to everyone what Lyons already knows. She is one of the best catchers and hitters in the state. Opposing teams know that getting to first, means that you stay on first when Schweiger is behind the plate. Those attempting to steal second are usually met with a quick, and lonely trip back to the dugout. The all conference catcher matches her play behind the plate with her hitting in front of it. Schweiger leads the league in home runs with six, including a monster shot over the fence in the final inning on senior night. The determined senior said about the homer, “I knew it was my pitch, and I was like ‘wow’ that’s what I wanted to end on.” Reflecting on her career at Lyons Schweiger said, “The last four years we have progressively gotten better each year. This year is really our year. To end like this was really nice.”
For Jazmyn Enny, her career in softball began rather reluctantly. As a freshman, the future of the Lyons softball program was in doubt. There were not enough players to field a team. Enny was asked to come play to ensure that the sport would continue for those, including her now sophomore sister, coming up behind her. Enny initially accepted this responsibility, and now embraces it. As a senior, Enny holds down first base in the field and is hitting a more than respectable .391 while scoring 27 runs, second most on the team.
First year coach Julie Vasquez, an alumni of both Lyons High School and the Lyons softball program, took over the program in 2020. Posting a 13-3 record and a second place finish in the competitive 3A Patriot League, and a looming appearance at state, is a successful season by any measure. The fact that Lyons competes in 3A, versus much bigger schools, and has twice beaten the number one ranked team in the state (Eaton), who has twice the student enrollment of Lyons, shows how tough and competitive this group really is. This is a reflection of their coach. Vasquez has done a fantastic job keeping the girls focused, playing hard, improving, and having fun.
Vasquez reflected on senior night and the season, “Senior night was amazing. I don’t think we’ve ever had this many fans at a softball game before. All season long they have been crushing the ball, keeping their heads down, but their eye on the prize.” Looking forward to next week, Vasquez is excited for the prospect of taking the girls to state, “I think we are definitely gearing towards a home game Tuesday. We are planning to play Thursday, and then Saturday (for the championship).”
While this year has, in several respects, been a year that many would like to forget, the seniors on the Lyons girls softball team have made 2020 one to remember. Building on last year’s state appearance, this year’s team returns from that experience ready to make a statement at next week’s tournament. The state seedings will be out on Monday, October 5th. The top sixteen teams qualify for state. The top eight seeds will host games at their home field. The Lions are currently ranked 7th. The girls will certainly qualify for one of the 16 state births. When the seedings are posted, there is a good chance the Lions will host a first round match here in town, on Tuesday afternoon.