They're continuing their softball careers on the same diamonds they began playing the game on.
Marshalltown High School seniors Taylor Vaske and Hailee Beals both signed their letters of intent on Thursday to remain under the tutelage of head coach Jeff Lamb, joining him at Marshalltown Community College after playing for him in his first season with the Bobcats.
Vaske and Beals grew up playing on the Marshalltown Girls Softball Association diamonds at MCC, making the hometown program a perfect fit for their futures.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown High School graduates Taylor Vaske, seated at left, and Hailee Beals, right, signed their letters of intent on Thursday to play softball for Marshalltown Community College head coach Jeff Lamb, standing center. Lamb, also the Bobcats’ head coach, is flanked by Vaske’s parents, Rhonda and Dan, left, and Beals’ parents Doug and Michelle.
"I had chances to go quite a few other places but the MCC field is where I started playing softball when I was little," said Vaske. "It's where I always had my practices and my games when I was younger, and so coming back here to continue my softball career at the collegiate level feels like a reminder of why I started playing softball in the first place.
"And I like Jeff as a coach, he's been a great coach to have the last year and I feel confident for all he can do for us at the college level."
Lamb's first season at Marshalltown High School sure was a success. The Bobcats advanced to the state softball tournament for the first time in school history, and the team's only two seniors played a pivotal role in its postseason run.
Vaske pitched all three victories in Class 5A regional play while Beals totaled five RBIs in the last two regional wins, both easily construed as upsets.
"Since I was really little I've always wanted to play college softball, and being able to do that with Taylor and with Jeff is really exciting," said Beals. "I chose MCC so early and I was worried that maybe I decided too soon, but the fact that he took us to the state tournament in his first year made me feel more confident in my decision."
The Bobcats were defeated in all three state tournament games, finishing off a 21-24 campaign that came with the school's first-ever state softball trophy. Vaske said that final showing helped to propel her into the next stage of her career.
"I want to go into the college season with the intensity and the never-say-die attitude that I had going into state," she said, "so I want to try to carry that over with me at the college level.
"My goal with softball is to go as far as I can, and pitching is something I've always worked at, I've loved my whole life, something I've always done and it's something I would like to continue after MCC. Wherever I transfer to I'm hoping to continue playing."
Both Vaske and Beals were named honorable mention all-CIML Iowa Conference for the second season in a row. Vaske finished the year 14-12 in the circle with a 2.70 earned run average over 176 innings pitched, while Beals batted .225 with 15 RBIs. Beals says she expects her defensive ability to get her on the field with MCC."
"I'm going to play until I'm ready to be done, which I don't know when that will be," she said.
Lamb will keep this pair of former Bobcats on his squad for as long as he can.
"Before I started coaching (at MHS) I knew these were two players I really wanted at MCC," said Lamb, heading into his fifth season with the Tigers. "We want the local players and these two have the talent we need, they definitely fit the bill.
"I think Taylor is going to be tremendous. Her work ethic, she pushes herself farther and harder than anybody I've ever coached. She's going to go places after Marshalltown and she's already had some looks. Hailee, in my opinion, has grown so much as a player, especially from a defensive aspect. She's got the tools, and it's my job to make sure she's using them all of the time.
"In the run to state, both of them were the parts that carried us."