There was one topic the Black Hills State softball team didn't dare speak about this week leading up to a home doubleheader against Colorado Christian.
Mother nature has become a bit of a sore subject in Spearfish for the softball team for the last two seasons. Due to snow or rain, the last 74 games have been played away from BHSU's home field.
BHSU has been the home team on the scoreboard plenty of times, but games were either cancelled or moved. Last season the Yellow Jackets played eight games in Gillette, Wyoming. This season, they've been forced to go to the Denver-area for their homes games.
Friday, under a cloudless sky with temperatures in the 70s, everyone could exhale. For the first time in 719 days, BHSU was going to have two real home games.
"It was kind of surreal," Yellow Jacket coach Lane Leedy said. "You almost didn’t talk about it this week, and then when we woke up and finally saw the sun rise it was a believable thing. It’s really nice for the girls to play in front of their own fans."
The Yellow Jackets lost both games of the doubleheader to CCU, 9-1 and 6-3, but just being able to be on the field in front of their home fans was enough of a win for the team Friday.
"I think it was refreshing. It has been two years and it was nice to have the support behind us," senior Alex Wiley said. "It’s been really tough mentally for all of us. We’ve been in Colorado every weekend and it’s really hard academically to get everything done when we’re on the road so much."
No one within the BHSU program has pretended that all of the travel has been easy. Simple things like sleeping in their own bed, and not taking seven-hour bus rides haven't been a reality for the Yellow Jackets since the 2017 season.
It takes a toll on the academic life of the players as well, as a road game means missing at least an extra day of classes.
"It was nice to be home for a change, sleep in your own bed, not have to be up as early and get on a bus for seven hours. We had a great fan section as well," junior Kindall Bethke said. "We’re missing Thursday and Friday of school and that builds up. Just being away from home is really hard."
It's also difficult on the body, according to Leedy. Bus rides to Colorado aren't short, and it sometimes makes playing games a little more painful.
"Being on the bus for seven hours is tough. We’re just trying to our mentality at this point, we actually have a home game and we want to play hard and do it for the seniors," she said. "We’ve done everything possible to play at home and for the last two years it hasn’t been a thing."
Something interesting has happened this season though, despite its home games in Colorado, the Yellow Jackets have been showing improvement.
Since the program was established in 2012, BHSU had won 10 or more games in a season only once coming into the 2019 season. The Yellow Jackets fell to 10-25 on the year with the loss and 7-20 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
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Last season, BHSU ended the season 9-31 with a 9-23 record in the RMAC, so it already has more wins this season than last season.
Considering all of the hostile environments the Yellow Jackets have had to play in, the program feels there's a lot to be proud of.
"Being on the road is tough," Leedy said. "I give these girls a lot of credit because they’ve been really resilient and overcome the adversity, and we’ve still been able to make some gains in places which has been good to see."
Bethke said it's also a sign of things to come, if BHSU can get a full home season.
"It feels really good. We’ve overcome a lot of stuff that not a lot of teams have to overcome," she said. "It just goes to show what the team is capable of and how much we can grow as a team hopefully."
On the diamond, CCU moved to 31-12 on the season and 24-6 in the RMAC with the doubleheader sweep.
The Cougars got things started in the first game in the fourth inning with five runs. The Yellow Jackets got their only run in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run from Maddie London, but CCU scored four runs in the fifth to end the game early.
Jennifer Romero moved to 12-5 on the season by going five innings and allowing three hits, one run, striking out three and walking three while earning the win.
Wiley took the loss on the mound, going 3 2/3 innings and giving up seven hits and three earned runs. She struck out one batter and walked none. She is 3-11 on the season.
In the second game, it was BHSU that got off to a hot start with two runs in the bottom of the first, but the Cougars scored three runs in the third and Stephanie Day hit a solo home run in the fourth to make it 4-2.
In the fifth, CCU scored two runs while the Yellow Jackets scored one in the bottom of the sixth.
Makena Martin got the win for the Cougars and moved to 4-3 after going six innings, giving up four hits, one earned run, struck out two and walked two.
For BHSU, Crystal Amaral fell to 7-8 with the loss after going 4 1/3 innings while giving up 10 hits, six earned runs, striking out four and walking two.
The two teams play another doubleheader today from Yellow Jacket Field beginning at 11 a.m.