I spent last Sunday at Northwestern University, where the Wildcats softball team won two games (against Heartland Community College and Spoon River College). In the middle game, SRC beat HCC. It was a tough day for HCC, as they lost 15-1 to the Cats and 1-0 to the Snappers.
As I watched the games in the October chill, a few fans asked why HCC would schedule these games at NU, when they are so clearly overmatched. These games do not count in the standings. They are a preview for the 2020 season. Teams like HCC use these games as learning devices and good experiences. Nobody wants to lose 15-1, but HCC knew NU is a better team. This was a chance to play against one of the top teams in the nation.
To their credit, the Hawks were a class act all day. After their games, when talking to HCC Coach Steve Leverton, it was clear that he sets the tone.
Upon introducing myself, Coach Leverton immediately thanked me for covering the games. He then complimented NU on being a great team. It was a long, cold day for the team and I am sure they all wanted to get on the bus and head home (or get food). Yet, Coach Leverton took time to discuss his team.
HCC promoted Leverton to the Head Coach position in October 2013, after he had been an assistant for three seasons. Leverton has more than 30 years of coaching experience.
Last season, the Hawks had a 30-13 regular season record, going 16-8 in Mid-West Athletic Conference play. The Hawks went 2-1 in the NJCAA Region 24 Softball Tournament.
Sophomores Maddie Mackey and Jasmine McCormick earned All-Region and All-Tournament honors. Freshman pitcher Alyssa Roll also won All-Tournament honors.
Coach Leverton is excited and positive about the 2020 season. He talked about the challenges and rewards in coaching a community college. He talked of the learning experience playing NU. He was quick credit NU with having a great team.
NU is on a different level and HCC shouldn't be compared directly to them. Within their own conference, HCC is a different story. As Coach Leverton stated, 2020 should be another successful season for the Hawks. Among others, big things are expected from Roll, who was 7-0 with a 1.95 ERA, allowing only 11 extra base hits in 46.2 innings pitched.
I hope to see Coach Leverton and the Hawks at Fall Ball next season. Until then, I will be following their progress. You can go to HeartlandHawks.com for more info on the team and school.
Thank you to Coach Leverton for his time. Good luck to the Hawks next season!
Steve Leverton and me in Evanston, IL-October 2019.