BLUE DRAGON SOFTBALL
Hutchinson (0-0) at NOC-Enid (2-0)
Hutchinson CC Sports Information
There will be a lot of newness for the 2019 Hutchinson Community College Softball Team.
Gone from a potent and explosive offense of 2018 are 68 percent of the total hits 68 percent of the runs produced because of graduation.
Also new is a return to NJCAA Division I after a 10-year stint as a Division II program.
The Blue Dragons have a veteran hand to handle all these changes – head coach Jaime Rose, who begins her 15th season with Hutch Softball. The program's all-time winningest coach has a record of 413-293 at Hutchinson.
"This year is going to be a huge adventure for all of us," Rose said. "We don't know much, even for me. It's like going to a brand new school. I haven't played most of the Division I teams in a decade. I don't know the coaches' tendencies like I did with the Division I coaches.
"It's going to be a challenge and we are excited about it."
Rose and the Blue Dragons will be opening the 2019 season three days earlier than expected when Hutchinson travels to Northern Oklahoma-Enid Tuesday for a 1 p.m. doubleheader. The games were supposed to be Friday, but potential freezing weather then prompted the change to Tuesday.
Overall, seven total players return from a 38-11 team that finished second in the Region VI Tournament for the second-straight year. Rose will blend in three transfers and 10 freshmen into a group that hopes to post a fourth-straight 30-win season – Something that hasn't been done since the early 1990s.
"I think we are going to be good this year and win games," Rose said. "Do we get back to where we were (in Division II)? I think that takes 2 or 3 years. I feel like we will be right in the mix (in Division I). Will we get to the (Region VI) championship game again? Only time will tell."
In addition to all the offense lost from last season, the Blue Dragons will have to replace 22-game winner D.J. Cannon in the pitching circle.
Maryssa Rollin is slated to be the No. 1 starter in 2019, but she won't be available until February 10. Sophomore Brynne Stockman (7-2, 5.06 ERA) will draw the Opening Day Game 1 start against NOC-Enid. Rose wasn't sure of a Game 2 starter.
Rose did say that between Rollin, Stockman and freshman Madison Lewellen, those three would get most of the innings this year. The bullpen will be comprised of returning sophomores Megan Davis (1-0, 5.56) and Cassidy Prucha (0-0, 10.50) and transfer Bailey Brawner.
"I really like our depth in the circle," Rose said. "I think we have more depth in the circle this year than last year. I like our overall pitching than in years past."
As far as position players, Rose is very excited about the versatility the 2019 roster has. This group includes several true utility players.
"This year more than any other year, we have more depth at every position except catcher," Rose said. "We have a handful of kids who are straight up utility players who can play three or four positions both in the infield and outfield. We have a ton of options.
"To have the versatility we have, To be able to put those kids anywhere defensively, it's a huge advantage."
Behind the plate will be Western Nebraska transfer Sabrina Luttig. She played only six games last season for the Cougars and went 3 for 15 with a triple, home run and two RBIs.
At third base will be returning starter Kiara DeCrane, who hit .362 last season with nine home runs and 33 RBIs. Up the middle will be a pair of freshmen. Caitlin Schumacher takes over at shortstop for two-year starter Izzy Godinez and Aubrey Peck will start at second. Freshman Ashley Wilson will be at first base.
In the outfield, freshman Alexis Way will be the starting centerfielder while transfer Taylor Ullery and sophomore Brooke Jamison (4 for 8 with three RBIs and five runs scored in 14 games in 2018) will interchange between left and right.
"Our entire defense is going to have a lot to live up to," said Rose, whose 2018 team fielded a solid .960. "We were very sophomore heavy and we are only returning two starters, only one played the whole year. So we have big shoes to fill defensively,"
Stockman is another offensive threat back from 2018. She hit .362 with 55 hits, two homers and 38 RBIs. Infielder Shelby Felvus hit .304 with six doubles and 19 RBIs. Prucha and Maddie Miner both hit .400 in limited at-bats last season.
Hutchinson will open at home on Wednesday, February 13 against Cloud County at 2 and 4 p.m. at Fun Valley.
One side note to Tuesday's season opener, NOC-Enid's head coach is former longtime Blue Dragon assistant Jana Williams. She spent five seasons with Rose as her pitching coach from 2006-2010.