By Carly Thompson / Sports Editor

The Hutchinson Community College softball team is 27-4 overall, 15-1 in the Jayhawk Conference, alone in first place and ranked No. 13 in the NJCAA.

A unique approach in terms of pitching staff may have some direct correlation with the success of the team. The Blue Dragons began utilizing a starter, middle relief, and closer combination to keep hitters on their toes.

Riley Wertz, a sophomore from Maize, is the closing pitcher for the Blue Dragons. Wertz has a 1.72 ERA, 14 career saves, and 213 strikeouts. She has set a career record for the KJCCC and was named pitcher of the week twice. 

“With Riley’s speed and movement, she is very hard to make adjustments on when you might only see her one time,” Blue Dragons coach Jaime Rose said. 

Wertz said loves her role as the closing pitcher, which is unique in softball, where many pitchers will pitch the entire game. She has never solely been a closing pitcher on her previous teams and has enjoyed the opportunity in this new role. Wertz keeps a determined mindset every time she gets on the mound as well as a confident swagger.

“Honestly, you have to have the mindset of ‘I know what I can do and you can’t touch me,’” Wertz said. 

Wertz said the key to being a closing pitcher is going into the game ready to shut down the opposing team for good.

“My goal is never to strike out every batter, because you can’t go in with that mindset. You have to go in with the mindset of ‘I’m going to get these outs and finish this game for my teammates because we all deserve this win,’” Wertz said.

Wertz said she wanted to give a big thank you to her teammates, coaches, and parents for helping her get to this point in her career. 

“I truly wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my girls, and I’m super excited to finish out this season and potentially break even more records,” Wertz said.

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