Half an hour before practice on March 29th, coach Kevin Costello, also the woodshop teacher at Santa Rosa High School, was parking the softball program’s new John Deere vehicle after using it to rake the field. Not long after, senior Hailey Butcher, the team’s catcher and energetic leader throughout practice, arrived and began setting up bases. Costello made a point of showing me the freshly mowed and weed-whacked outfield as well as his own handiwork— an infield that he had blowtorched free of weeds.
There is no Junior Varsity team this year. When Costello, the JV coach of three years, was called on to lead the program, they were forced to consolidate. He says “I found out today that I have seventeen girls… which is a lot. But if that’s what it takes to get them to be able to play, I’m all for it.” Although unusual, a larger team also has its advantages. Two of the team’s veterans have jobs and some students will soon return to in-person schooling, which makes scheduling difficult in a season jam-packed with games.
Butcher has played softball at Santa Rosa High School since she was a freshman and plans to continue to play in the future. She said that the loss of the majority of her junior season was especially challenging because that is when you want recruiters to “see you on the field.” Nevertheless, she’s excited to be back, and her enthusiasm and support for her teammates give it away. After consulting a schedule, she told me that she expects the team’s most formidable opponent this year to be St. Vincent De Paul high school in Petaluma.
When I asked Cori Marchant, a junior, how she felt about the season this year, she said “I’m very happy to be back. It’s a pleasure.” For Marchant, it hasn’t been a year without softball. She has kept up with conditioning with her uncle who also coaches.
Costello stresses the importance of having a season this year, despite the limitations. “There are girls that are seniors this year, so this is their last shot, you know?” he said. They need to have their senior season, they need to be able to come out here and play.” He also emphasized the crucial role that this year’s season has in the health of the softball program going forward. Costello sees the combined varsity and JV team as a unique opportunity for first-year players to prepare to eventually take on leadership in the program. “Who better to learn from than these varsity girls that have been playing for years?” he said.