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Yergler enjoying success close to home

May 15—CHAMPAIGN — Karley Yergler isn't far from where she starred in the pitching circle for Mahomet-Seymour High School.

As a result, there are plenty of familiar faces around to watch her compete for Parkland College's softball team.

Some are friends and family members who have been on hand for the Cobras' remarkable 57-4 record they've put together so far. Others are players who come from nearby towns themselves.

More yet are Illinois coaches and players who will welcome Yergler to Eichelberger Field in 2025.

"It's been convenient that on our days off, they've had a couple of games," Yergler said. "So I've definitely gone out and seen a couple of games so far. And I always let the coaches know I'm coming and then they'll stay and talk to me afterwards, which is really cool."

Parkland has largely gone as Yergler has throughout the 2024 campaign. Her 0.77 ERA leads all NJCAA Division II pitchers with more than 100 innings — and trails only teammate Ryleigh Owens' mark of 0.411 — with a 30-2 record and 260 strikeouts.

"She's definitely grown and developed as a pitcher," Parkland co-coach Dan Paulson said.

"She's learned to attack hitters' weaknesses more and really learned to study the game. So it's just taking her to a new level of preparing her for where she's going to be next year in the Big Ten."

Local teammates like Monticello product Lizzie Stiverson, Unity graduates Reece Sarver and Maddie Reed and Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond standout Alisha Frederick don't miss having to face Yergler outside of practice.

"I've always played against Karley (and) known she's very tough," Stiverson said. "And Maddie Reed, she's always locked down defense in the outfield and she was always a big stick in high school in the (Illini Prairie) conference. We've always had that chemistry."

The former adversaries have grown close since arriving at Parkland.

Yergler's roommates now include Stiverson and Monticello graduate Addie Wallace.

"You have this sort of little rivalry, I guess, when you're in high school but then you go and you be teammates," Yergler said. "It's really cool just remembering back on the memories of playing against each other."

Yergler's arrival at Parkland was helped in part by her familiarity with the Paulsons throughout her prep career.

She competed for Dan and Kristi Paulson's travel ball team while amassing a 23-2 record with a 0.54 ERA and 354 strikeouts with the Bulldogs during her senior season, helping the team reach the Class 3A state tournament for the first time in program history.

"I had a really great relationship with them then," Yergler said. "Obviously, knowing that they were the coaches at Parkland, after a little bit of thinking, I was like, 'I think Parkland is really the school for me."

She'll be just a few blocks further from Mahomet when she continues her college career next season with the Illini.

"I'm really close with my family, and it's really cool seeing not just my immediate family, but also my extended family being able to come to all these games," Yergler said. "So many people from the Mahomet community are able to come. Even people that I may not have really even talked to that much in high school will come and support."

Yergler is the only junior college player among Illinois' 10-player recruiting class of 2024, and she's been in steady contact with her future Illini teammates and coaches.

"I know quite a few of the girls, so I'll sit and talk with the girls too after the game," Yergler said. "I really like that I already feel so comfortable with them that I'm able to have these easy conversations with them."

A supporting rotation that includes Owens and Ellie Vetter has helped the Cobras earn their third NJCAA tournament appearance in four seasons along with a No. 1 ranking for the season.

The trio has had plenty of help from an offense that ranks second nationally in hits (678), third in runs scored (548), seventh in batting average (.401) and 11th in home runs (74).

Yergler is a vital part of that offensive success, too, having a .407 average with a team-high 22 home runs and team-high 65 RBI to go along with a .450 on-base-percentage and .970 slugging percentage.

"I don't struggle with my pitching at all," Yergler said. "Hitting, that's what I'll get in my head a little bit. But I have great teammates and great coaches that are really good about picking me up and getting me out of that bad headspace."

The Cobras haven't been down much since their pursuit of the program's first national championship began on Jan. 26 in Clearwater, Fla. Parkland will be the favorite at the NJCAA Division II World Series when it begins next Monday in Spartanburg, S.C., with the Cobras receiving the No. 1 seed when pairings were announced Tuesday for the 20-team field. The Cobras open their World Series stay at 10 a.m. next Tuesday against either 16th-seeded Potomac State (W. Va.) or 17th-seeded Macomb (Mich.) in a second-round game.

"I think we're all very confident," Stiverson said. "We all know that we're at the highest level playing the best teams. We know we've played against and beaten the best teams in the nation before, so we know that we can do it again."