Falk, Walter and Joseph families forever bonded through softball
Jason Falk, Sam Joseph and Pat Walter have been coaching their daughters, Katie, Rylee and Jada in softball since elementary school.
JAMESTOWN — Katie Falk, Rylee Joseph and Jada Walter have gotten more than a couple of trophies out of their athletics careers — they have gotten a family.
"There have been many great coaches, teachers, family members and friends who have helped mold these girls into the young women that they are today," Katie's father, Jason, said. "It takes a village to raise kids (and) Jamestown has done a great job of raising these three."
The trio of seniors along with Katie's cousin, Ella, is competing at its last West Region Tournament of their high school careers this weekend. The four seniors hope to lead the Blue Jays to their first-ever West Region championship and punch their ticket to the Class A State Tournament for the third consecutive time — and you can bet their whole family watching.
"I remember before the season started — Jason looked at those three and said: 'You three have put in a lot of time and you guys are good, so go out there and do what you guys have been doing and just let your hard work show.'" said Rylee's father, Sam. "That's what they have been doing this year — they just go out there and fly around and have fun together."
Jason, Sam and Jada's father, Pat, have been watching the girls play softball since they were in elementary school.
"I first met Sam while playing amateur baseball in Jamestown years ago when our kids were very little," Jason said. "We played against each other and later we played on the same team and became friends. Rylee and Katie were the same age, running around Jack Brown, long before they could play softball.
"As they both got older, they both were involved in the same sports, volleyball, basketball and softball," he said. "Sammy and I then got involved with coaching youth softball together as soon as the girls could play. Jada went to school with Katie and was also playing the same sports and the three girls became fast friends."
Jason said Pat was also a very involved parent and shared the same passion for baseball, and soon the trio banded together to coach the first 9U fastpitch group when University of Jamestown head softball coach Kevin Gall started the girls' fastpitch program in Jamestown.
All three have coached the girls every summer since 9U.
"We just kind of did it because that's what dads do," Pat said. "It gave us a chance to spend some time with our daughters and our love of the sport kind of bled into them a little bit."
Pat said Jason and Sam really possess the knowledge to help the girls with their hitting while he helped the trio out by hitting ground balls, tossing pitches, teaching outfield techniques and helping them learn defensive base-running skills.
"It's been awesome just watching them grow up in front of us and loving this game that Pat, Jason and I love," Sam said, choking back emotion. "Passing along all of our experiences and knowledge to them and now watching them do it on their own has been sweet.
"We didn't really know what we were going to get with these girls," he said. "There were a lot of times when we had to tell them 'Get out of the dirt — we don't need to be building sand castles right now.' It's been awesome to watch them grow. Seeing them succeed and trusting all of their hard work — it's been fun."
Growing up and moving on
This season, the Jays entered the 2023 West Region Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The squad finished out the regular season with a record of 24-8 and capped off the regular season with an emotional sweep of Dickinson. It is the third consecutive year the Jays have been to the regional tourney.
Following the 2023 high school season, Rylee, Katie and Jada will be going on to play collegiate-level softball. Ella, while all-around talented, has opted to play basketball at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Rylee officially committed to the University of Jamestown's softball program on Nov. 2. She began playing softball when she was 8 years old. Prior to that, she was playing tee-ball and even some baseball through the JAYBAL program.
"I had no experience with coaching any of that other than just playing," Sam said. "I was helping Cory Anderson at the high school and after I got done playing for the Jimmies, I coached a little bit with Tom Hager but other than that, there wasn't much coaching. More so, I just loved the game and Rylee did too so that just kind of worked."
Now in her final prep season, Rylee is .405 at the plate. The Jays' No. 2 batter has notched 36 RBIs. She is in her third season on the Blue Jay varsity squad. The second-year starting second baseman holds a .870 in the field and has just 12 errors in her 32 games played.
Prior to heading to UJ, Rylee said she will be playing summer ball but as of May 25, is unsure what team she will be a part of.
After the school season wraps, Katie will also be playing summer ball with a traveling team out of Minneapolis.
In August, she will head to the University of Mary where she has committed to play softball. The three-year varsity team member received offers from U Mary, Dickinson State University and the University of Jamestown. U Mary made its offer in November and Katie officially committed in December.
At the plate, Katie holds a 0.459 batting average. The Jays' cleanup has driven in 42 runs and has scored 47 runs. The senior has hit three bombs and in 32 games played, she has only been struck out 11 times.
"We just love being on the diamond," Katie said. "When we are not on it, we are getting better off of it. I know I can always call Sam Joseph or my dad to work with me. Tom Wilson has also helped me immensely. His dedication to the softball program can be seen as he came to Jamestown for weekly pitching lessons. All of this has created the player I am today."
The Jays' starting pitcher, Katie has thrown 1,637 pitches across 96 innings. She has allowed 66 — 49 earned — runs off 115 hits. The senior has walked 41 opposing batters and has recorded 111 strikeouts. As of May 22, her ERA reads 3.573.
"Katie wants everything to be perfect in everything she does with her pitches and her swings," Pat said. "Jada sees that and that drives her to do more. All three are very, very good friends but they push each other — they all want to be their best for the team and for themselves."
Jada committed to play at Bismarck State College next year. The second-year varsity team member has adopted hitting at the No. 3 spot and has delivered 43 total hits — four of which were home runs. The senior is currently .384 at the plate. She has 37 RBIs and has been walked 22 times. The third-baseman is .904 in the field — a credit to Pat's defensive coaching.
Jada will be playing summer ball with a team out of Bismarck.
"I've been telling Rylee since she was in middle school: 'Fly around, have fun and don't suck,'" Sam said. "To the other two, I'm proud of them. I am proud of what they've done. They are pretty much a part of my family and I just want to say thanks for being such good friends to Rylee. Good luck — it's been awesome."
"Life is like receiving a change up when you’re expecting a fastball," Pat said. "I would tell them make the adjustment and attack the next one with confidence, and you will be just fine. We're always there for each other. I knew they'd have our backs and we'd have their backs. It's been a good personal and growing experience with the families. My door is always open and I love 'em both like my own daughters."
"I am extremely proud of all three of these girls," Jason said. "There have been countless hours in the cage and on the field with many ups and downs. I feel incredibly blessed to have had a dugout bench view watching these three little girls grow into three amazing young women."
Thank you, Dad
"My dad has been nothing short of supportive, encouraging and motivating," Rylee said. "He does everything a dad could do to set me up for success. He goes the extra mile for me always.
"He's taken an extra shift at work because I broke my bat so I needed a new one and anyone who plays the game knows that buying a bat is like a loan out," she said. "He fixes the laces on my glove, has me take dry swings in the living room to look at my mechanics, hits with me at the drop of a dime, stays patient with my process, and most of all — lets me know he’s proud of me. Words can never amount to how much I appreciate him and all he does for me, softball and outside of it. Love you Pops."
"I want to thank my dad for all the time he’s put into helping me achieve my goals and believing in me even at the times I didn’t," Jada said. "He pushed me to be the best I can be and for that, I am so thankful. He’s been my biggest role model since day one. I appreciate and love you, Dad."
"Words can not describe all you have done for me not just in softball but in life," Katie said. "No matter what kind of day you had, you asked many times if I wanted to go hit. You taught me that when you do not feel like doing something is when you should. That’s when you get better.
"You are the most influential person in my life and have crafted me into the person I am today," she said. "The hours we have spent together, whether they be at the cage, field, or just at home will forever be core memories that I will cherish. Thank you for all the work you have put into me for softball and life. I can not thank you enough. Love you, Dad."