COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Lady Jags hope to build on foundation

Feb. 29—DANVILLE — For any junior college team, it is tough to make two national tournaments in a row.

The Danville Area Community College softball team will aim for a second straight appearance, coach Matt Cervantes said last year's team set a template for this year's team and future teams to follow.

"We had a really good group last year and it was great to see them grow and grind," Cervantes said. "The best thing they did was lay a foundation for the program. As much as we miss them, the cool thing that they did was leave a legacy for kids that want to be a part of it and I get excited about it."

There will be six sophomores: Rylee Richey, Amaria Wall, Ali Grezenbach, Alyvia Jackson, Kennedy Hudson and Kelsey Martlage, who was part of last year's team and will return.

"We got some good pieces and we do a great job of utilizing our roster every year," Cervantes said. "We got six sophomores that saw ample time except for one because of injury. A lot of them got experience and it has worked in getting the freshmen to buy in and that is the fun part about what we do."

Jackson, a grad of Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, was the one that was injured last season, but came back in the fall season.

"She has been on a tear this fall and it has been fun," Cervantes said about Jackson. "She got cleared late in the fall and she is going to be a huge help for us.

"We have Amaria Wall, who is our lockdown third baseman. Kennedy Hudson, who got hurt in the early part of last season and came back late. She is a speed demon on the basepaths, she has a really great arm now and has made herself in to a complete ballplayer. Kelsey Martlage has come around on her own and embrace everything that comes here way. She works hard, has a great attitude and a really positive leader and it is an example of great culture. Her roommate — Rylee Richey — was a great part of what we did last year. She is a great first baseman and pitcher who was 12-3 before postseason and had as many strikeouts as Raven (Morrison)."

The freshmen class is led by an outfielder with a very familiar name.

"Two years ago, when we went to the national tournament, we has a special player in Mackenzie Richardson and I was able to recruit her sister, Gloria Richardson," Cervantes said. "She is going to come in and is doing a fantastic job in tackling the outfield. She has been the most consistent out there. Alyssa Acton has played high-level travel ball and she has come in and brings positivity every day and she has done a fantastic job.

"Pailei Cripe has come in and has been helping us at short and even catching when we needed it. Molly Besser is from Mount Zion and is an outfielder, Kailey Frischkorn is from Salt Fork has been working hard and making a case and Kenley Vanbibber is from Evansville and is also an outfielder for us. We have a lot of good pieces that have stepped into a role and it is cool to see how they are all fitting in. We got a lot of talent, we just have to find where that talent fits."

The Lady Jaguars are taking a departure from most seasons in their opener. Instead of the Myrtle Beach trip to start, DACC will start the season on Sunday at Winter Park against the College of Lake County for a 1 p.m. doubleheader.

"I took a chance and the chance has been good with weather. It seemed that every time we went to Myrtle, we were leaving with the weather 55 and sunny," Cervantes said. "So now we are going to move the trip back a few weeks, get some home games in and see if we can solidify our play before that. It looks like we are going to do that and it will be fun. We have been practicing a lot outside this offseason and our field is playable and ready to go and things are moving in the right direction."