Posted: Apr 15, 2020
By Jim Ecker
Shelby Hulsebus and the Kirkwood Eagles were on their way to a softball tournament in Arkansas in mid-March when they learned the tournament had been canceled due to growing concerns about the corona virus.
The Kirkwood bus, nearly to Arkansas when they got the word, turned around and returned to Cedar Rapids instead of playing four games in Arkansas on March 14 and 15.
A few days later, Kirkwood Coach Eric Frese informed the Eagles that the rest of their season had been canceled by the National Junior College Athletic Association, along with the other spring sports.
"It was pretty unreal at first," said Hulsebus, a talented sophomore outfielder from Benton Community High School. "It was kind of unbelievable."
Hulsebus hated to see the season end after just 12 games, but knows it was the right thing to do. "It's the harsh reality," she said.
Hulsebus and all Kirkwood students are finishing this semester with online classes. She'll get her degree next month, but faces a tricky decision after that.
Should she accept an offer to continue her softball career at a four-year school next season, or she should accept an offer from Kirkwood to return next year and play for the Eagles again? All of the sophomores in the spring sports of softball, baseball and golf have the same decision to make.
"It's definitely still an option," Hulsebus said about playing for Kirkwood in 2021. "I know a lot of people have decided to come back."
Hulsebus, a career .471 hitter for the Eagles, has been contacted by some smaller NCAA Division I schools about joining their teams for next season. "It's just getting started," she said about the recruiting process. "It's really hard to know."
Hulsebus enjoyed an outstanding season for Kirkwood as a freshman in 2019 when the Eagles finished fourth at the NJCAA Division II national tournament. She led the nation with 58 stolen bases, scored 62 runs in 62 games, and hit .441.
She was hitting a robust .622 this season when the season ended prematurely and had 17 stolen bases, tied for fourth in the country.
Hulsebus was a five-year starter at Benton Community High School, beginning as a graduated eighth-grader, and helped the Bobcats win a state title in 2017 when she was a sophomore. She was a four-time all-state selection before enrolling at Kirkwood and has softball in her blood.
She's considered the possibility of ending her softball career and not playing again anywhere, but that seems unlikely.
"I think I'd be very, very sad if softball is not in my life right now," she said. "I'm a very active person and I'd have a hard time if I stopped."