By TREY WILLIAMS
For a program that had a lot of holes to fill, Daniel Boone softball sure seems to be on solid ground.
Appearing as indomitable as they are inexperienced, coach Jeremy Jenkins’ Lady Trailblazers are off to a 19-3 start this season despite having to replace ace/slugger Jaclyn Jenkins (Milligan College). Also gone are all-conference shortstop Abbey Harrison and first baseman Rhetta Persinger, as well as honorable mention all-conference players Caroline Wilson and Macey Dance.
Jenkins chuckles when asked if he would’ve wagered on a 19-3 start from his green but gifted squad.
“I tell you what, there were a lot of question marks going in,” said Jenkins, now in his third year giving credit to predecessor Rick Wagner, who helped Boone to a state runner-up finish in 2012. “But they really play well together. They’re a group that gets along really well and they really pick each other up. If one’s struggling the others pick ‘em up. They’re always pulling for each other… We don’t have any superstars. It’s just really a good group.
“Coach Wagner, you know, kind of laid the foundation to what our softball program is. And hopefully we can just build on that and by tournament time we can get where we need to go.”
Pitching has been the Lady Trailblazers’ bell cow. Megan Ackerman is 4-0 with 0.94 ERA, fellow sophomore Savannah Russell is 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA and freshman Nickolette Ferguson is 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA.
“The key to us right now has been our pitching,” Jenkins said. “Savannah Russell, Nickolette Ferguson and Megan Ackerman have all three given us quality starts and done a really good job of making people earn their way on. Our defense has been pretty good all year long and the last two weeks we’ve hit the ball better than we have in a while.”
Freshman shortstop Jaycie Jenkins is hitting a blistering .528. She’s hit three of Boone’s four triples, leads the team with 22 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with three home runs. And Jenkins’ 12 doubles are as many as any two teammates’ combined total.
Ackerman is second on the team with 21 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with three home runs. Senior Kristen Hall (.444 batting average) also has three home runs.
“Our leadership has been really good,” Jeremy Jenkins said, “with Kristen Hall leading that group of seniors that we have – Lexi (McDowell), Rachel (Vittetoe) and Jaclyn Painter. Kristen’s played a really strong third base and Jaycie’s played a really strong shortstop for us. Jaclyn Painter’s played a strong second base. Lexi behind the plate has thrown out several runners. She’s already signed with Walters State…
“The great thing about this group is you never know who it’s gonna be. Top to bottom, all of ‘em are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and doing some positive things for us.”
Perhaps the young Lady Traiblazers, the nucleus of which has had a lot of success on summer teams, are too inexperienced to feel the pressure of expectations.
“Last year’s bunch – I mean, we won the league – but we really got hot at the right time in the tournament,” Jenkins said.
“This bunch is a totally different group than last year’s group – real loose and they just come to the park ready to go. They carry themselves well and they’ve played a lot of travel ball and been there and done that.
“They’re carrying it over from the practice field to the games. We’re really practicing hard and getting stuff done in practice and it’s carried over to the games. Right now, it’s just fun time watching our girls play.”
Still, Jenkins is still wary of the potential pitfalls of success, especially when youth is part of the equation.
“Like I’ve told our girls, we don’t need to be reading the paper or doing anything like that,” he said. “Keep focused on what’s there and hopefully we’ll get to where we want to get to. We all know there’s two seasons in softball – the regular season and tournament time. So we’re hoping we’re playing our best ball at tournament time.
“So far so good for us. And hopefully we can do better, because we can do better than we’re playing. We know there’s still a lot of season to go.”