POPLAR BLUFF -- Jack Childress, softball coach at Three Rivers Community College, is proud that his team holds the record for the most wins in any season of TRCC softball. He's even more proud that they did it with a lot of hard work and very little fuss.
"A team like this makes my job easy" said Childress, who has coached softball at TRCC for 14 years. "We had no drama with these ladies. They were unbelievable as far as character, and that goes a long way toward success."
For the second year in a row, the Lady Raiders softball team won the conference championship title, on top of a fielding percentage rated 12th in the nation. Also impressive is the team's batting average, ranked 21st in the nation. Stefanie Ferguson, Laura Tucker, Kara Harper, Wendy Eftink and Ashley Watkins were all named to Missouri Community College All-Conference teams. With 78 and 63 steals respectively, Ferguson is second in the nation and Tucker ranks fifth within the National Junior College Athletic Association.
"Fergie and Tucker are jackrabbits when it comes to steals," Childress said, referring to the second base-woman and the left-fielder. "You get them on base, and they'll get a run in every time." Both Tucker and Ferguson are up for All-American status.
Harper, a pitcher from West Plains, now boasts the most TRCC career wins (27) of any Lady Raider softball player, beating the record held by former All-American Molly McKinney since 1999.
"This is probably one of the best teams, if not the best team, we have had at TRCC," Childress said, following an awards banquet held for the team on Sunday, May 16. "They did some astounding things, both on the diamond and off the diamond. They were one of the most spiritually-based teams that we've ever had, and that's probably one of the reasons why they were so successful. "
Childress is assisted by Christa Albright, who serves not only as assistant coach, but as a pitching coach, recruiter, cardio-conditioning coach, and more. Their dual efforts are paying off: Childress' graduating sophomore players are being snatched up to play for four-year schools all over the country, and he has plenty of confidence in his recruitment options and returning players.
"We've got the incoming talent to win Region 16. We're going to have the pitching talent, and that's where it starts. This past year had one of the best recruiting classes I've ever seen -- I mean, fabulous. We're really blessed. Everyone I asked to come, came."
As for the best memories of the season, "Beating Jefferson was a big moment," said Childress. "We were playing Jefferson College from Hillsboro in a doubleheader, and we won both games by only a run or two, but it clenched the conference for us."
Childress has coached at TRCC for over 20 years, in a variety sports including basketball, volleyball, and softball. Since earning a Bachelor's degree in Physical Education and a Master's in Secondary Educational Administration from Arkansas State, Childress has coached 17 All-Americans and 13 Academic All-Americans, and has won seven conference and two region titles.