DANVILLE — It wasn’t what Charlie Duncan had originally envisioned when he accepted the job to become the Danville softball coach before the 2020 season. Then again, nobody envisioned what would ultimately happen to sports in the spring.
Duncan, who had spent eight seasons as the Blue Devils’ assistant, has been along for a wild ride. He’s seen the team win five consecutive district championships and a state championship appearance in Division IV in 2017.
Tuesday night was much more subdued as the Blue Devils sent off eight 2020 seniors. There was no late-season battle for a league championship or positioning in the upcoming tournament. Just a game at its simplest form.
“Just to come out and play with the girls one more time and be a team. It was really fun,” said Brittney Holt, one of the seniors honored.
“We just wanted to find a way,” Duncan said. “It’s not very often you have eight (seniors) at a small school like (Danville). All of them were going to contribute one way or another on this team. When COVID took over, we held on hope as long as we could until it got canceled.”
Seven of the seniors — Holt, Karley Ackert, Morgan Bernard, Aubrey Dawson, Hannah Duncan, Cece Newbold and Carley Seitz — were there to take in the honors. Destiney Eutin had already moved to Florida to start the next phase of her life.
“She was here in spirit,” Charlie Duncan said.
The ceremony was a trip around the bases as teammates presented them with flowers, pictures and their senior stencil.
“I think even if we didn’t play, we were still going to do that,” Newbold said. “(Coach) Duncan really wanted to do something for us because this was his first year coaching and it didn’t even happen. I was looking forward to having him as a coach and having (assistant Shane) Coffield up there.”
As for the game, the Blue Devils beat River View 9-0 in six innings and featured some highlights from the seniors. Holt had a couple of hits, three stolen bases and a run. Dawson also reached base three times with a hit and a couple of walks and scored once. Bernard reached base four times, all on walks, and scored a run.
Newbold tossed five innings and struck out 11. But that didn’t really matter to her. It was an opportunity to play with her sister, Cami, one more time.
“Normally, I would have been a lot more tense, more focused on my at-bats and my pitches,” Cece Newbold said. “I had a lot of fun. That’s something that I don’t get to do a lot of times playing sports, so that was different.”
The game was a part of the impromptu league set up by Duncan and Mount Vernon softball coach Ryan Pentz. The league included Danville, River View, Centerburg, Loudonville, Cardington, Mansfield Madison, Mount Vernon and Northmor.
The league allowed for 2020 seniors to participate, but the Blue Devils had saved that opportunity for something special … like a Senior Night. Though River View had no seniors participating, coach Bonnie Infante obliged and the game was played.
“We’ve just been playing next year’s girls trying to get them ready and making up for lost time,” Coach Duncan said.
It was a chance for the seniors to remember.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be as upset,” Holt said. “I’m just thinking about all of the memories that I’ve had, all the friends that I’ve made and all that we’ve done as a team. I’m actually more upset than I want to be. I’m still really close with all of my teammates. I’m still going to see them and we’re still going to be all connected.”
Charlie Duncan got the opportunity to coach his daughter as the team’s head coach for the first and only time.
“I’ve been looking forward to this moment,” Duncan said. “This is my first year coaching and my daughter’s senior year. We were looking forward to do some good things together. (Senior Nights are) always special. I look at a lot of these girls like they’re my daughter. But this one is blood. Just to get out there one more time with her and see her do her thing, it is special.”
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