With 19 players on the roster this season, the Western Nebraska Community College softball team is looking for exciting things when they open the season Tuesday, Feb., 5 at Frank Phillips College.
Practices leading up to the season-opener have seen nothing but positives with a team that features five returners from a year ago and 14 new faces.
“Personally, I am very excited to watch this team play ball,” head coach Katelyn Groves said. “I am excited that I have the opportunity to coach alongside two former players [Kelsey Bernhardt and Courtney Medina] and a young lady [Abbey Martin] that truly loves the game of softball and our program. Our players have worked extremely hard since they first stepped foot on campus in August. They have bought into our team mantra of ‘Strong Alone, Unstoppable Together’ and I can’t wait to see what they do together on and off the field this spring.”
The Cougars will spend a week in Texas playing games. After the games with Frank Phillips on Tuesday, the Cougars will face No. 11 Howard College on Feb. 6-7 before taking on Western Texas College Feb. 8-9.
The players are looking forward to the road trip to play some competition.
“We are super excited to start the season with such a talented team,” freshman Jaila Johnson of Firestone, Colorado, said. “We get to show off our hard work and finally put it all together for real this time. I’m also super excited to start my first ever college season as a Cougar.”
There is plenty of depth on this year’s squad and that will be a key factor this season.
“We have the availability to see two to four different players in any position this season,” Groves said. “Our team is extremely athletic and I believe you will see that in our ability to more around our lineup.”
The depth all starts with the pitching core. WNCC has four pitchers ready to throw from the circle. Returning pitchers include Emma McMillan of Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Reagan Solomon of Farmington, Utah.
McMillan went 14-19 a year ago from the circle with 188 innings pitched with 131 strikeouts. McMillan had an ERA of 6.10. Solomon was 7-13 in the circle with 139 innings pitched and 66 strikeouts. She finished with an ERA of 6.58.
Joining McMillan and Solomon in the circle are freshman Emma Glawson of Victoria, British Columbia, and Mickie Mills of Spanish Fork, Utah.
“We are 1/2 and 1/2 on freshmen and sophomores. Our returners saw a lot of action last year and will bring a ton of experience with them,” Groves said. “Our newcomers are hungry and eager to show teams what they can do. We are excited to watch this group of pitchers as they off set each other in a variety of ways from speed to best pitches.”
The other returners on the team are infielder Michaela Kelly of Castle Rock, Colorado, catcher Gabby Loya of Denver; and outfielder Abriana Ramirez of Arvada, Colorado. Kelly batted .383 a year ago with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs, while Loya hit .308 with six home runs and 41 RBIs.
The freshman class has plenty of talents. Infielders to make an impact are Lindsey Allie of Tooele, Utah; Devon Rees of Victoria, British Columbia; Madi Simons of Santaguin, Utah; Hannah Baesler of Thornton, Colorado, and Sam Davis of American Fork, Utah.
The outfield group includes Jaila Johnson of Firestone, Colorado, and Tylar Davis of American Fork, Utah. Her twin sister is Sam.
Utility players on the squad include Emma Flynn of Longmont, Colorado, and Sidney Hogan of South Jordan, Utah.
Catcher prospects include Kendall Glasgow of Ft. Collins, Colorado, Hayley Gordon of Victoria, British Columbia, and Bri George of Hooper, Utah. Also Simons and Tylar Davis could also see time at catcher.
“Our team is looking pretty solid all-around,” Groves said. “We have a team that has 19 key players. We have players that will embrace their roles in whatever aspect they might be asked to do and do it with max effort. We are excited to watch our team compete for each other and all those that helped them here.”
Goals for this season is to win a regional title. Last season, the Cougars finished third at the regionals tournament, topping top-seed Lamar Community College 6-4 in eight innings, before falling to Otero 8-6 and then to Trinidad State 10-2.
WNCC will have games every weekend through February. WNCC will begin Region IX play March 2-3 when they travel to Trinidad State Junior College. The first home game is slated for Wednesday, March 6 at Volunteer Field.