The season schedule began with good competition against teams from Iowa, as well as a trip to South Carolina. The Jackets were 0-8 after returning from down south, but have won seven of their past nine games.
“Things have gotten better,” Peterson said. “It’s one of the things I’ve learned coaching junior college softball. It’s a two-year rotation with new people in every year instead of juniors and seniors to lead the way. It takes a little longer for them to acclimate to each other.”
Peterson believes in playing a tougher schedule, which she says makes her team better in the long run. The Yellowjackets didn’t even play an NJCAA Division three team until they returned from South Carolina.
“We played four division two teams in our first tournament,” Peterson said. “We then played Division two, Division one, and one NAIA team when we went on our spring break trip to Myrtle Beach (South Carolina). Our record suffered a little because of it.”
She added, “However, our kids came into the games against the northern schools last week, and we outscored those teams 44-3 in three games.”
After committing multiple defensive errors during the trip south, Coach Peterson said the one area where the team has shown the most improvement is in their defense.
“We were missing McKayla Ahlrich (Sleepy Eye, MN), who’s our starting shortstop,” Peterson said. “She’s a basketball player. It took her a couple games to get comfortable as she hadn’t played since her senior year in high school, but she made a huge difference when she came on.
“We had a ton of errors early in the season,” she said. “We were beating ourselves. We did play some tough competition, but I think we could have hung with them better if our defense was cleaner.”
In addition to the defense, the hitting has picked up considerably as well.
“Christina Stanger (of Stewartville) was one of our leaders at the plate from last year,” Peterson said. “She struggled early on, but has come on hot the last few games. She was seven for ten at the plate with two home runs in the three games last week.”
Injuries are a part of every season and sports, and it’s been no different so far with the Yellowjackets.
“Haley Vanourney (Marion, IA) is one of our captains and one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Coach Peterson said. “She sustained a concussion during the trip to Myrtle Beach and we lost her for a week. She’s back and swinging the bat well.
“Sammy Hogan (Palatine, IL) hits third in the order for us,” Peterson said, “and she’s been crushing the ball all year. Hogan’s hitting well over .600 for us.
One thing the coaching staff stresses at the plate is getting a quality at bat, no matter what the outcome is. She said the kids are buying into that system.
“It’s okay if you step in and that first pitch isn’t your favorite,” Peterson said. “It’s okay not to swing at it. We were swinging at pitches that might not be our favorites and we were hitting easy-out ground balls or popups. We’re focused on picking out a good pitch to hit and hitting it hard.”
The pitching mound will see some good depth this year. Up to four Yellowjackets may see some time out on the mound.
“Our top one-two pitchers are Sammy Hogan (two time NJCAA Division Three Player of the Week) and Quincy Gross (Columbia Heights, MN),” Peterson said. “They’re doing well. In her last two starts, Sammy threw a no-hitter and a one-hitter. Quincy is battling a little, but when she’s on, she’s tough. She’s got good movement on her pitches.
She added, “Haley Vanourney will also pitch for us. She’s a nice counterbalance for us. She’s doesn’t throw quite as hard, but has nice movement on her pitches. McKayla Ahlrich will also throw a few pitches as well.”
The Jackets will host the CTC invitational at the RCTC dome this Friday and Saturday. The other teams will include Rainy River Community College, Vermillion Community College, Hibbing Community College, and Madison College.
Here’s the complete Yellowjackets roster:
No. Name Pos. B/T Cl. Ht. Hometown/High School
14 McKayla Ahlrich P/INF FR Sleepy Eye, MN / Sleepy Eye
20 Kayla Branstad C/INF FR Northwood, IA / Northwood-Kensett
10 Ashleigh Dralle Utility SO Farmington, MN / Randolph
16 Brittany Ellis Outfield FR Lansing, IA / Kee High
12 Paige Gadient Utility SO Goodhue, MN / Goodhue
7 Quincy Gross P/INF FR Columbia Heights, MN / Columbia Heights
15 Sammy Hogan P/INF SO Palatine, IL / St. Viator
5 Makayla Kaeppel OF FR Hawkeye, IA / North Fayette Valley
3 Shantel Loos Infield FR Rochester, MN / Century
18 Emmy Miller INF SO Cannon Falls, MN / Cannon Falls
13 Jordan O’Connor OF SO Preston, MN / Fillmore-Central
4 Christina Stanger OF SO Stewartville, MN / Stewartville
1 Haley Vanourney C/P/INF SO Marion, IA / Marion