Blue Jays hoping to take step up
It hasn’t been all about wins the past two seasons for the Jamestown High School softball team.
Jamestown kicks off the season today with a doubleheader against the Patriots at Bismarck Century.
“Our pitching continues to progress, and we’ve got some younger players we plan on mixing in with the older group. I’m very optimistic,” Soulis said of the upcoming season. “I think being in our third year with the varsity program our kids are developing and are getting a lot better fundamentally, and that will help keep us in games.”
Jamestown has played to a record of 10-38 since the varsity program hit the field in 2012. The team has won five games over each of its first two seasons, but in both years the Blue Jays have come up just one win short of qualifying for the state tournament.
The Blue Jays are hoping to turn a corner against the state’s more established programs. Of the team’s 10 varsity victories, nine have come against Turtle Mountain.
Jamestown has defeated the Bravettes twice in loser-out games at the West Region tourney, which has brought the team to the cusp of state the last two years. The Blue Jays finished at 5-22 in 2012 and at 5-16 a year ago.
Arguably, the Blue Jays’ marquee win to date was a 14-11 come-from-behind victory against the Bismarck Demons in Bismarck on April 21, 2012.
“Going into (today), we just need to be more competitive against those better teams. Do I expect us to go undefeated this year? That’s probably not realistic,” Soulis said. “But last year we proved the direction the program was going in. We were playing into the sixth and seventh innings. Fewer games were ending early and we were playing them out.
“If we throw strikes and get the outs we need to, we’ll have a better chance to get more wins under our belt.”
Junior hurler Kadie Anderson and sophomore Jadee Lange will be largely relied on to get strikes across the plate. Both were workhorses in the circle last season, while sophomore Paige Christ is listed as a third pitching option.
Of the 11 players listed on the roster, four are seniors in catcher/center fielder Ashlie Meier, left fielder Natasha Reister, center fielder Alicia Beckman and first baseman Paige Peterson.
But according to Soulis, the program has a record number of 38 players in the program as a whole, which means underclassmen will be counted on in the varsity lineup.
“We’ve got some athletic girls that we’re really excited about,” Soulis said. “There’s going to be continual movement. We need to play some games and see what the kids can do.
“There are some girls that are going to be in the lineup that weren’t there last year,” the coach added. “We’ve got some on the JV that we think by the end of the year will be contributing in some way to help our varsity. We’ve added some nice additions and I think it will be fun to go out and watch them play.”
Peterson, standing at 6-foot-1, was a major contributor at the plate last season, and she’ll be looking for a stronger senior campaign. The recently crowned Miss Basketball started last May going a perfect 12-for-12 at the plate over a four-game stretch against Turtle Mountain and Minot.
During the hot spell, Peterson smacked two triples, scored nine times and drove in five runs. She also walked three times.
“She gets to the point where she thinks that’s normal, to be hitting over .600 for that streak she had,” Soulis said. “Paige is developing to the point with her bat that she’s one we are going to be looking at to produce.”
Through the first 18 games of last year’s 21-game season, Peterson was hitting at a clip of .303 with an on-base percentage of .439. Anderson was Jamestown’s leading hitter during that same span, hitting at a clip of .323 with an OBP of .523.
Following today’s season opener at Century, the Jays play at Fargo South on Friday before opening at home on Tuesday against Minot Bishop Ryan, all weather permitting.
“Each year we have to make that next jump. Call me crazy, but I think we have a chance to play in the state tournament this year,” Soulis said. “Our program is getting to the point where we’re capable of playing with some of those (top) teams and having a chance to win.
“We need to put ourselves in position to play in a game to get in the state tournament. That’s ultimately what we’re looking to do.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org