Kasson-Mantorville grad Abby Zahn has been a big hit for RCTC softball team

May 9—ROCHESTER — Abby Zahn would like nothing more than to go out a winner.

Zahn, a Kasson-Mantorville grad, is in her first season with the Rochester Community and Technical College softball team. She played her freshman season at Iowa Lakes Community College, a Division II scholarship program, and transferred to RCTC for her sophomore season because she wanted to be closer to home.

The right-handed hitting infielder has had a major impact at RCTC on and off the field. She plays multiple postitions on defense and as a hitter she leads the team in numerous offensive categories.

"Abby is a versatile defensive player with a can-do attitude," RCTC coach Jami Stejskal said.

Zahn has been a main cog in the RCTC lineup. She has helped the Yellowjackets secure the No. 1 seed in the four-team Region 13A Tournament that RCTC is hosting today and Friday. The winner of the double-elimination event earns a berth in the NJCAA Division III national tournament.

Defensively, Zahn has most often played the first game of doubleheaders at third base this season and then shifted to shortstop for the second game. She played primarily in the outfield a year ago at Iowa Lakes.

When it comes to defense, Zahn just wants to be in the lineup and help her team win.

"I just want to play," she said.

Hitting is a big part of her game. Zahn leads the Yellowjackets in batting average (.450), doubles (12), triples (four), slugging percentage (.710) and on-base percentage (.513). She is in a five-way tie for the lead with two home runs and a four-way tie for the lead with 31 RBIs.

"She is solid and it's just been so fun watching her lead the team in so many categories," Stejskal said.

Zahn had a wrist injury at the very beginning of the season, but she didn't miss any time. And she has easily adapted to the competition in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.

"I'm a contact hitter," she said. "I just strive to get base hits and RBIs really."

The 20-year-old Zahn is used to an intense atmosphere when it comes to softball. She played at a number of levels in the Kasson-Mantorville program which she calls "very competitive."

"I like to win so I like to do as much as we can in practice and then put it into the games," she said.

It is that attitude that quickly made her one of the team leaders. Zahn arrived at RCTC last fall and she joined the rest of the players for the offseason workout program.

"Mostly just on the field," she said of her leadership. "Just trying to communicate and talk to the players, get them involved in the game. Even in practice sometimes I try to have their minds set on the field and be confident."

Stejskal said that Zahn has embraced a leadership role with the Yellowjackets. That helped the team get through a rough patch at the beginning of the season.

RCTC has a 16-18 record heading into the Region 13A Tournament and is the top seed. The other teams battling for a national berth are No. 4 Minnesota State-Fergus Falls, No. 2 Rainy River Community College and No. 3 St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

The Yellowjackets have gone 13-7 since an early tournament and a spring trip to Florida. Zahn said that was a great building experience for the team.

"I think we definitely needed it to just kind of figure out what we were working with and where people were for positions," she said. "It was hard to figure out communication and where we were supposed to go. Every team is different and every coach is different for cutoffs or other simple things.

"I think that was a whole new adventure, but we pulled it together after Florida," she added.

Now the Yellowjackets have the goal of winning the region championship and earning a national berth. That would be a crowning jewel for Zahn.

The remaining part of the 2024 season might also be Zahn's swansong for competitive softball. She has been getting some looks from four-year colleges, but as of right now she plans to enter the workforce following her one-year RCTC career.

"I would like to but school is not a big thing for me," she said. "I don't know what I would pick for a major that's why I kind of opted out. But I would love to continue to play softball. I wish I could just play softball for the rest of my life."

The national tournament will be held in Chattanooga, Tenn., from March 22-25. Zahn has traveled to Tennessee in the past to play in youth tournaments. She would love to make another trip to the state to play once again.

"I just want to see it to the end, to see how far we can make it," Zahn said. "It's my last season, maybe, and I just want to see if I can push the team to do that and we can strive to make it (to nationals). I think we're hungry enough."