Southeastern softball coach Ron Faubion felt going into the 2020 campaign it had the recipe to be an unforgettable season for the Savage Storm.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it turned into a season that won’t soon be forgotten.
The Savage Storm finished with a 15-9 overall record, but seemed to be hitting their stride with most of the teams picked ahead of them already out of the way on the schedule.
“This was a season that we had been looking to for some time with the veterans we had returning along with the talent of our newcomers,” the long-time Southeastern head coach commented. “They were just beginning to get where we needed them to be. The hardest thing to do at the start of the season is players learning their roles, and we were getting really close.
“We had positioned ourselves how we wanted to be in the conference season and we had gotten to the rotation how we wanted about a week or two before the season was canceled. It was working well, and we were winning a bunch of ball games. The only team picked ahead of us in the preseason that we had remaining was Southern Arkansas, so we felt pretty good about getting to 40 wins and receiving an at-large berth to the national tournament. I’ve never had a team with 40 wins that didn’t advance to the tournament.”
While Faubion has had plenty of free time to plan and look ahead to the 2021 season, he still feels bad for his four seniors who saw their final campaigns abruptly come to an unexpected conclusion.
Those include four-year stalwart Symphoni Shomo, a spectacular leadoff hitter who finished her final year with a .395 batting average. She wrapped up that career with a phenomenal 138 stolen bases and was on pace to break both school and conference records.
The others were outfielder Kennedy Salyers, who batted a career-best .326 when the year was halted, along with Ivy Amador and pitching standout Katie McCullar. She posted an 8-2 record with four saves and a 1.43 earned run average in her final campaign.
Each had a choice to return thanks to the NCAA rulings, but all four were scheduled to graduate in May and had future plans already lined up after college.
“It was disappointing as a team, but there were also several individual goals that we were so close to, especially Shomo,” Faubion said. “She was so close to so many school and conference records. She obviously was already named to the Conference All-Decade team. Kennedy had the best year of her career going as well. They will be tough to replace and I’m sad they weren’t able to have a senior day but I may try to bring them back to recognize them at one of our fall games.
“I contacted all four when we knew they would be able to get the year back from the NCAA, but they were all graduating on schedule. The thing is with the NCAA rule, it not only affects the seniors but the rest of the squad as well. They all get that extra year back. Where it kicks you is recruiting because we may not have any graduating to open up money for that 2021 class. So that’s where it’s going to kick us. I would have liked to have seen the NCAA do that proactively for the next four years. This is what coaches are really more worried about right now. Those juniors in high school and freshmen in junior college are the ones really taking the hit.”
It’s the first time in the last 46 years of coaching that Faubion has had a lengthy break this time of year, but has focused on staying positive, doing field work as well as recruiting.
In addition to redoing his outfield wall, the Southeastern skipper has also signed eight players for next year, including former Silo All-Stater Karissa Marshall, while completing his 2021 schedule. But he knows that could still all be tentative while waiting like everyone else to see how things play out in getting things back to normal - or at least the new normal.
“We have eight players coming in and now have 18 on the roster for next year. I’ve never carried more than 14 people since I got here. That’s a lot to get practice time for. It’s exciting to think about the prospects, but we are definitely backed up with a ton of depth. We got a whole lot of local kids from the area. In the past, we probably couldn’t get them, but a lot of them are wanting to stay closer to home now.
“There are a lot of players in the transfer portal that are jockeying for spots. And it just kind of leaves things in limbo with the current status. All this may change. Who knows? Fall season may get canceled and we may not be back on campus. You just never know with how this is going to go play out right now.”