By Aubreigh Heck
Prior to the start of the softball season, the Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons were picked to finish in third place in the Jayhawk Conference.
After just completing a 13-game winning streak, the Blue Dragons have proven themselves worthy of fighting for first place.
HutchCC currently holds a 25-5 record overall, and boast a 16-2 record in Jayhawk Conference play.
Blue Dragons coach Jaime Rose knows that her team has a shared goal, which helps drive her team to work to earn these victories.
“Every team in this conference is capable of winning, so we just try to keep getting better,” Rose said.
Riley Wertz, a freshman pitcher from Wichita, just earned her fourth Jayhawk Conference Pitcher of the Week honors this season. Not only does Wertz have 0.64 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched, she is also hitting .305 in 59 at-bats.
Wertz’s ERA is the second-best in the Jayhawk Conference, and her eight wins have her in fifth best for the Jayhawk Conference.
While Wertz is making a name for herself, she recognizes that a lot of her team’s success can be attributed to their on the field chemistry.
“We’re just a big family,” Wertz said. “I credit our chemistry towards always hanging out with each other, always being around each other. We’re a very close-knit group of players this year.”
Haley Miller, a sophomore utility player from Hutchinson, also knows that her team’s connection starts off the field.
“We have such a bond with each other,” Miller said. “We’re really close off the field and on the field. It helps when we’re playing, we dance around and just shout random things. We just get along so well, we keep each other up and positive. That’s what helps our games.”
Miller is currently slashing a .473 batting average, .474 on-base percentage and .677 slugging percentage for a fourth-best batting average in the conference.
Oftentimes when a team is performing much better than anticipated, onlookers wait for there to be one game that shows a team’s true colors.
The Blue Dragons know for certain what their team-defining game was.
“When we split with Butler Community College in El Dorado, I think that got us going. It opened everybody’s eyes that we can play,” Rose said.
The Blue Dragons split their first series of the season with Butler, a softball powerhouse Butler that rarely loses a conference game, handing the Grizzlies their first loss of the season in game one, 6-5. Game two ended 8-0 to the Grizzlies in five innings.
Despite losing one of the games, Wertz and Miller agree with their coach that the first game of that series proved that the Blue Dragons would be a threat during the season.
“When we beat Butler one game, that was when we were thinking, ‘Wow, we can do it,’ and it put us in the right mentality to refuse to lose,” Miller said.
“The first Butler game we definitely proved ourselves,” Wertz said. “It showed everybody that we’re here to play and that we’re here to stay.”
Now as the Blue Dragons face the rest of their season, pitching coach Ray Aguirre has one thing for his players to remember.
“Everybody’s seen us now, so we’ll have an ‘X’ on our back for the rest of the season,” Aguirre said. “We just gotta keep going, and playing like we have been.”