Jimmies softball hoping new faces and veterans lead to bounce back
The Jimmies are trying to avoid back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in the Kevin Gall era (1999-present).
JAMESTOWN — The University of Jamestown heads into the 2023 season with a lot of new faces but also some key returners. The Jimmies softball team is returning 15 players from last year’s team and have 14 new players.
“The fun answer is we expect to win the championship and the GPAC,” Jimmies head coach Kevin Gall said. “The realistic answer is we want to somehow come close to reaching our potential as a team. In order to do that you gotta be emotionally, physically, Jimmie fit, and all those things that go together, spiritually fit and be a good teammate.”
The Jimmies are losing seven of their top 15 batting average leaders with at least five at bats and four of their five pitchers from last year’s team. The only returner is sophomore Sunny Halsey, who pitched in 18 of the team’s 310.2 innings last year. One of the Jimmies' returning batting average leaders is junior Megan Neiles, who hit .311.
“I think we have a lot of potential with this team,” Neiles said. “You can already tell in practice, we’re hitting bombs, our pitching is great and I think more than ever our team chemistry is the best. So, that’s what will win us games.”
Last year the Jimmies went 23-24-1, ending the season on a two-game losing streak. They struggled away from Trapper Field going 4-10 away from home. One of the incoming freshmen that Gall and his staff hope will help get the team back to above .500 is infielder Maddie Spaeth. Spaeth said her individual goals for this season are to do her part to make the team successful by hustling and making contact.
“It’s a lot more practice time obviously and it’s a lot more expectations set on you,” Spaeth said. “There’s a big difference from high school to college.”
The Jimmies played five exhibition games during the fall and Gall said it taught him how his team would look without the 12 players they lost from last year’s roster. Gall said he is looking for contributions from returners like Ally Battistoni and Gracie Fisher and incomers like Spaeth and Abby Blair and Trinity Gregg.
“We found out we’re gonna be OK losing all those seniors off our team last year,” Gall said. “I think we figured out that we’re going to be able to get people out with our young pitching and it was a lot of fun to work with them.”
This season, Gentrey Turin is one of six upperclassmen on the roster alongside Neiles. Turin said her goals for this season are to help the Jimmies get back to the national tournament for the first time since 2018. Last year, Turin hit .246 with an on-base percentage of .331 and a slugging percentage of .291.
“Last year I didn’t have as good of an offensive season as I would’ve liked because I excelled defensively but I’m expecting a lot offensively,” Turin said. “We have very strong hitters so in a way I don’t feel that much pressure because if I ground out or fail one at bat I know somebody else is going to pick me up because this year we have a really strong lineup offensively.”
Gall said his team’s biggest strength this year will be their defense. Despite having 71 errors as a team last season, Gall hopes moving Turin to second base and Samarah Martinez to shortstop will help eliminate the mistakes. Gall said he is looking for breakout seasons out of juniors Martinez and Mackenzie Lafebrve and freshmen Blair and Spaeth.
One of the busiest Jimmies on the roster is Gracie Fisher, who is currently in the middle of her first season as a defenseman on the Jimmies women’s hockey team and is a third baseman for the Jimmies softball team. Gall said his team will be without Fisher when they open the season at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, against Northern State at the Presentation College Dome. Fisher will instead be with the hockey team as they face Midland University at 2 p.m. on Feb. 10.
“She’s going to play hockey this weekend and then come down for our fourth game,” Gall said. “I think she’s in a better state mentally and physically by playing both sports and she’s learned how to be a leader to all those freshmen hockey players. She’s just a workhorse, plain and simple...She’s really been nice to have around.”
Fisher will be balancing both sports through March 20, at the latest.