The Western Nebraska Community College softball team had very few days to practice outside since starting practice in January, but when the team hits the field Wednesday against Frank Phillips College in Texas, they will be more than ready to hit the diamond.
“We are all looking forward to getting outside and on a softball field,” second-year head coach Katelyn Groves said. “Having the weather we have from about November to March, we always get pretty excited for the first trip south in February. The focus for the first game is to play our game and have strong communication. When our team is communicating, we are much better in practice and I am excited to see it translate in games.”
The Cougars will play four days in Texas. After Wednesday’s doubleheader with Frank Phillips, they will face Howard College on Thursday before a four-game series with Western Texas on Friday and Saturday.
Sophomore Madi Jackson, who was named a NFSA pre-season all-American in January, said this team is ready to get going.
“I am super excited to get the season started,” Jackson said. “I think we have a lot of potential.”
Jackson said that they have been working hard in practice despite the wintery weather, making the best of different venues. The Cougars were outside a couple last times last week at Oregon Trail Park, but practices usually consisted of the Field of Dreams or working out in Cougar Palace, like they did Mondayafternoon.
“We always find a way to get what we need done,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of good competitors on our team this year. I think we will just be fine.”
It is that spirit of getting the job done that reflects the competitiveness of this year’s team. The Cougars do have a lot of potential because of that commitment, but they will have to do it with a thin roster. WNCC has just 13 players on the roster, but only 11 players healthy to play.
“The talent this season is strong. We have multiple girls that will be seen in multiple positions and filling different roles throughout the season,” Groves said. “Our strengths will be in our ability to move players around in different situations. We have a variety of players that will play different roles – I think the depth in which each player holds is one of our biggest strengths.”
WNCC returns just two players that saw action a year ago in Jackson, a utility player from Herriman, Utah, and Alyssa Guymon, another utility player from Stansbury, Utah.
The Cougars do have the services of two transfers n Brooke Doumer and Beanie Luttig. Doumer, an infielder from Parker, Colorado, came to WNCC from Iowa Western Community College. Doumer already inked to continue her playing at Colorado Mesa.
As a Reiver last season, Doumer appeared in 44 games, batting .389 with four home runs, 40 RBIs, 47 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. In three games against WNCC last season, Doumer was 4-for-8 with two doubles, a run scored and three RBIs. Doumer earned Academic All-Region XI first team honors last year for the Reivers. Iowa Western won two of the three games against the Cougars a year ago.
Luttig, a sophomore from Kennard, Nebraska, is a catcher that spent one year at Butler Community College. Luttig batted .261 last year with three doubles, 16 runs scored and 12 RBIs for the defending NJCAA national champions.
WNCC’s other two sophomores, Chelsea Gorman and Christina Nelson, have been hampered with injuries, but they have contributed in other ways that have benefited the team.
With just four sophomores that have seen junior college action, a lot of the punch will come from the freshmen class. Jackson said it doesn’t matter who is on the field this year because it is just not the sophomores that are leaders, everybody is leaders in their own way.
“You could say the sophomores are leaders, but I think we have a lot of natural leaders on our team,” Jackson said. “We have silent leaders and leaders that talk. It is just not the sophomores this year, it is like there are a lot of good freshmen this year that know how to lead the team as well.”
The team will be led by the two pitchers in Emma McMillan from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, and Reagan Solomon from Farmington, New Mexico.
The catching prospects will be handled by Luttig as well as Gabby Loya, a freshman from Wheatridge, Colorado, and Hannah Schaeffer of Anaconda, Montana
The rest of the roster will play an important part as well. They include Marlee Grant, of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada; Michaela Kelly of Castle Rock, Colorado; and Abriana Ramirez of Arvada, Colorado.
Jackson said the small roster won’t be a problem with this team.
“We have a lot of talent and you can pretty much put anyone anywhere on the field and they will get the job done,” she said.
Groves agrees this is a group that is equal.
“All of our players will be key at given times,” the coach said. “We have a great group and I truly believe they will each play a key part throughout games and throughout the year. I am looking forward to watching our freshmen step up in big ways and our sophomores to provide in game experience that will help control the tempo and direction of our team.”
After this week, the Cougars will have a week off as they prepare for their annual soup supper fundraiser on Feb. 17. After that, they will travel to face Highland Community College and Northeast Community College Feb. 24 and 25. The Cougars first home game is slated for Feb. 28 when they host Northeastern Junior College.
Groves is just excited to get this season started.
“I am excited to get this team to Texas and watch them do their thing,” she said. “They are a fun group, great people, and very hard working.”
2018 schedule (subject to change)
7 — @ Frank Phillips 12/2 p.m.; 8 — @ Howard College, 12/2 p.m.; 9 — @ Western Texas, 12/2 p.m.; 10 — @ Western Texas, 10 a.m./12 p.m.; 24 — @ @ Highland, Kansas, 12/2 p.m.; 25 — @ Northeast Nebraska, 12/2 p.m.; 28 – Northeastern Junior College, 2/4 p.m.
3 – Trinidad State, 1/3 p.m.; 4 – Trinidad State, 11 a.m./1 p.m.; 6 – North Platte, 2/4 p.m.; 9 – Lamar, 12/2 p.m.; 10 – Lamar, 11 a.m./1 p.m.; 12 – @ Tyler Junior College, 2/4 p.m.; 13 — @ Trinity Valley, ¼ p.m.; 14 — @ Tyler Junior College, 2/4 p.m.; 15 — @ Angelina College, 2/4 p.m.; 17 — @ Navarro, 12/2 p.m.; 21 — @ Northeastern Junior College, 2/4 p.m.; 22 – vs. Iowa Western at North Platte, 1/3 p.m.; 24 – @ Trinidad State, 12/2 p.m.; 25 — @ Lamar, 11 a.m./1 p.m.; 27 – vs. Iowa Western at North Platte, 12/2 p.m.; 30 — @ Otero, 3/5 p.m.; 31 — @ Otero, 11 a.m./1 p.m..
4 – McCook, 2/4 p.m.; 7 – Otero, 11 a.m./1 p.m.; 10 – McCook, 2/4 p.m.; 11 — @ North Platte, 3/5 p.m.; 14 — @ Northeastern Junior College, 12/2 p.m.; 15 — @ McCook, 11 a.m./1 p.m.