by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
Every summer thousands of young girls across the state of Indiana spend their summers grooming their softball skills in various leagues and on travel teams.
Participation on a travel team calls for sacrifices. Sacrifices for the girls playing and sacrifices for the parents of those girls. Lost are the weekends of hanging out with friends on those lazy days of summer and lost is the money spent by parents on hotels and food during tournament weekends.
The goal is to compete at these tournaments and have a good showing, but the ultimate goal is to ready each player for the competition she'll face at the high school level. Then, at the high school level the only tournament that matters is the dream of one day winning the IHSAA tournament.
Last Saturday at Ben Davis High School that dream became a reality for a Logansport product. Stacey (DeHaven) Rogers and her Tri-West Lady Bruins stood alone on the mountaintop with a 7-4 win over Yorktown High School, as they were crowned the IHSAA Class 3A state champs.
Rogers spent her youth playing in local leagues and also playing on travel teams during the summer. She knows all too well the sacrifices that are required of both players and parents when committed to travel ball as she once was there.
"It was a very neat experience for me to have played when I was younger. Softball is what I'm all about," she said. "I've been gearing for this day since I was 7 years old and my family has sacrificed just like these girls have, so I know what these girls have given up to get here."
Rogers played all through high school under former LHS coach Ron Kinnaman and graduated from Logan in 1996. After graduation she attended St. Joe College in Rensselaer where she also played Division II softball for the Pumas. Her first head coaching job was right here in Cass County when she was named to head the Pioneer High School program in 2003. She was head coach for the Lady Panthers for three years and nearly made it to the state finals in Class A in her second year at the helm.
In 2006 she made the move south when she accepted a position at Tri-West, located in Hendricks County just west of Indianapolis. She was an assistant coach for the Bruins before taking over the head coaching duties two years ago. She also serves as the head coach of the Lady Bruins volleyball program.
At the start of the season expectations were high as the Bruins returned eight starters from the year before.
"Our initial goal was to win one more game than we did the year before," said Rogers. "But this was a special team with a special group of girls. We had a nice mix of classes. We had six seniors and five sophomore starters along with six juniors and everyone just gets along so well with each other."
Marita Van Dyke and Lacey Meyer split time in the circle early in the season before Rogers turned over the vast majority of the pitching duties to Van Dyke. The Bruins then started to gel and lost their last game midway through the season when they dropped a doubleheader at Lebanon on May 4. They went on a 14-game winning streak and finished the season with a 25-4 record along with the 3A title. At the conclusion of the title game against Yorktown, Alyssa Clark of the Lady Bruins was presented with the mental attitude award for 3A.
Rogers' dad pointed out to her towards the end of the season that her squad had led the state in several categories.
Though Rogers never won a state title while playing for the Berries, Logansport was represented when she won with Tri-West. Many members of her family were in attendance as well as some former teammates.
"I felt so blessed to have my family there with me and then I thought it was so cool when I found out some former teammates of mine were at the game," said Rogers.
Kris (Cree) Mason, Jennifer (Smith) Thompson, and Stacey (Kesler) Ramiro all made the trek to Ben Davis to cheer on their friend and former teammate. After the game, amid the hugs and the celebration, Mason said something to Rogers she'll not likely ever forget.
"When we were celebrating the win Kris came up to me and said, 'We didn't get it in high school but we got it now.' I knew winning it meant a lot to a lot of people," said Rogers.
A lot of those people are right here in Logansport. Former youth coaches that Rogers had right along with those that remember watching her play with the Lady Berries feel a sense of accomplishment with the Tri-West win.
After a whirlwind season that concluded with a state championship one would think the Lady Bruins would want to take some time to relax and unwind. But according to Rogers, they'll be busy with summer ball soon and are already chomping at the bit to get back to open gyms in preparation for next season.