Even after the Dublin Coffman High School softball team opened just 1-6, senior third baseman Christa Alvich said the Shamrocks never lost faith in themselves.
But winning 18 of the next 21 to finish 19-9 overall was a pleasant surprise.
"We always knew we had the potential to be a good team, but none of us expected to win 19 games after the start we had," Alvich said. "But once we started working harder in practice -- and some of us started showing up early or staying later -- that's when we started to live up to our potential and win games. We just got on a roll and it led to us having the best record in our team's history, which is amazing."
Coffman, which lost to eighth-seeded Westerville South 1-0 on May 19 in a Division I district semifinal, lost three of its first six OCC-Buckeye Division games and won its last four to finish 7-3, behind Grove City (9-1) and ahead of Upper Arlington (6-4), Hilliard Davidson (4-6) and Westerville North and Reynoldsburg (both 2-8).
The Shamrocks beat Davidson 6-2 on April 14 and 12-2 on April 30. Coffman also downed UA 6-2 on April 28, avenging a 3-2 loss to the Golden Bears on April 9.
Alvich guaranteed that Coffman would sweep Davidson before the start of the season. "I'm glad we were able to beat Hilliard Davidson because they are our biggest rival, and I would have looked bad if we didn't win both games," he said.
After losing six consecutive games from April 3-9, the Shamrocks won eight consecutive games, beginning with a 3-2 decision over Whitehall on April 12 and ending with a 9-5 decision over Westerville North on April 21.
Coffman also ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, beating Johnstown 2-1 in its finale May 10. The Johnnies were 19-4 entering that game, but junior Madison Hedderly gave up five hits and senior catcher Rachel Susi rallied the Shamrocks from a one-run deficit with a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning.
"That was a huge win because Johnstown had an excellent record and it kept our momentum going into the tournament," coach Kevin Finan said.
The 11th-seeded Shamrocks opened the district tournament May 13 with a 5-1 win over Pickerington North and beat seventh-seeded Watterson 2-0 in the second round May 15, avenging a 6-4 loss to the Eagles on April 29. Hedderly pitched a two-hitter, and she and Susi drove in runs with doubles.
The Shamrocks then lost to South as they mustered only one hit. Hedderly pitched a three-hitter with a season-high 12 strikeouts.
"We didn't reach our goals of winning our first league or district championships, but this was a tremendous season and a great way to go out as a senior," Alvich said.
Coffman will lose seven senior starters in Alvich, Maggie Dering (2B), Megan Knerr (CF), Danielle Stein (SS), Susi (C), Jordan Wilson (P) and Samantha Woodall (LF).
Woodall batted .500 with 16 RBI, 27 runs and 19 stolen bases, Alvich batted .430 with 17 RBI, 20 runs and six stolen bases, Knerr batted .291 with 21 runs and 16 stolen bases and Susi batted .259 with 19 RBI. Wilson was 3-3 with 46 strikeouts and 25 walks in 63 innings.
Starters who are expected to return are juniors Morgan Hall (1B), Hedderly and Kats Mockler (RF).
Hedderly batted .409 with 20 RBI and Mockler batted .303 with 18 runs and six stolen bases, as the Shamrocks had a .321 batting average and scored 5.1 runs per game.
Hedderly went 16-6 with a 1.55 ERA, 124 strikeouts and 17 walks in 135 innings.
"Our seniors will be remembered as the class that changed our program in a positive way," Finan said. "We've got a good program in place now, and there's some good players coming back as well as some ones who will be moving up from junior varsity. Our outlook for next season is good."
At a glance
•Record: 19-9 overall, 7-3 (second) in OCC-Buckeye
•Seniors lost: Christa Alvich, Maggie Dering, Allison Hayes, Megan Knerr, Danielle Stein, Rachel Susi, Jordan Wilson and Samantha Woodall
•Key returnees: Morgan Hall, Madison Hedderly and Kats Mockler