After spending five years in Strasburg High School’s athletics program, Delainey Stickley said she thinks back on all of the mentors she’s had and the people who have stood by her side through the ups and downs of her high school career.
The senior, who was supposed to wrap up her final Strasburg sports season on the softball diamond this spring, also learned not to take anything for granted.
“Going into high school I thought it would be the slowest four years but it went by so quickly, and I think that athletics is so important, especially with the teams and the faculty,” Stickley said recently. “They all make it so worth it and just (dealing with) this coronavirus, I think that it taught me not to take anything for granted because nothing’s guaranteed.”
Strasburg’s softball seniors, and those in all spring sports across the state, found that out the hard way when COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season. The Rams’ five seniors – Stickley, Kaitlyn Capps, Kiera Drummonds, Jacqueline Elbon and Gracie McDonald – won’t get the chance to finish what they started on the diamond, and are certainly left wondering what would’ve come from a season in which head coach Suzanne Mathias-Carter said the expectations were high.
“They were committed and worked hard. I hate that they missed out that last year of playing,” Mathias-Carter said of her five seniors.
“We’ll miss them,” she added. “I wish them well.”
Capps, McDonald and Stickley, the most established of Strasburg’s seniors in terms of regular playing time, each said near upsets of traditional state power and Bull Run District foe Madison County ranked up at the top of their list of Strasburg softball memories.
For McDonald and Stickley, last year’s one-run loss to the Mountaineers in the Bull Run District tournament stood out most.
“The whole time on the way there we were like, ‘We can’t think about who they are, we have to go and play a Strasburg game, we can’t think about Madison,’” McDonald recalled. “… That’s what we were doing and then we started catching up and they weren’t scoring. We were getting excited, but it just wasn’t enough.”
“We were tied up until like the fifth or sixth inning,” Stickley said, “and they ended up winning but we just proved to ourselves that we could play against them. It just proved that we were a lot better than we thought and that we could play with any team that we were up against. And that’s what coach Mathias told us too. It put us in a state of mind that we could beat anybody that we play.”
Of Capps, Mathias-Carter said she remembers the senior having confidence in a clutch situation and belting a timely home run, and Mathias-Carter recalled McDonald “making great plays” and being a solid leader for the Rams. Both were versatile players, Mathias-Carter added, and Capps in particular played all over the diamond during her high school career.
“Each year was something new,” Capps said, adding that her knowledge of the different positions on the field allowed her to better serve as a leader and mentor to her younger teammates, “and we had to push ourselves more and more with new girls coming in that had to adjust to a new team and everything.”
McDonald said everyone on the team pushed each other, and though the players had moments where they didn’t always get along, McDonald noted that the coaching staff was always there to bring them back together.
Capps added that no matter what problems surfaced off the field, Strasburg’s players were able to put those aside when they stepped onto the diamond.
“Definitely the five (seniors) that stuck it out, we played multiple sports together,” Stickley said. “I know Gracie, Kaitlyn and me all played volleyball and that helped grow our relationship and stuff. But I think the tightest relationship that I had on the field was definitely (with junior) Natalie Hott, our pitcher, because she just, she always had a positive outlook and she always wanted to win, which I love. She was just a great teammate.”
The biggest lesson that McDonald learned as an athlete certainly rings true under the current circumstances.
“Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to,” McDonald said, “but you just have to get over it and move on. It gets better.”
Capps, who will continue her softball career in college, said losing her senior season of high school ball has heightened her appreciation for the time she does get to spend on the diamond.
“I’m gonna take every game, play it like it’s my last from here on out,” she said, “and just look forward to my next season in college.”