By Daeton Winebrenner
The Hutchinson Community College softball team is preparing to start the 2024 season, but it hasn’t come without its challenges.
Our personnel may have changed but our expectations of the season are no different than last year,” Blue Dragons coach Jaime Rose said. “We are going to focus really hard at playing each game one at a time.”
Rose is entering her 20th year as a HCC softball coach, coming off a historical 2023 campaign where she led the Blue Dragons to a school-record 44 wins. Unfortunately, some key players from that squad have moved on. The team lost three All-Americans in Madison “Dink” Grimes, Riley Wertz, and Aspen Goetz
“No doubt we lost a lot of production from last year’s lineup, but we lose great players every year,” Rose said. “I feel that this year’s team is just as capable of producing runs.”
With such a large personnel loss, changes in the play and score style is inevitable, and that’s what the team has been working on.
“Last year we relied a ton on power,” Rose said. “This year we have a ton more speed so we will play more small ball and put runners in motion.”
Rose is yet to pinpoint who she believes can be the biggest impact players on the team.
“We won’t know who the biggest impact players are until we are deep into the middle of the season,” Rose said. “I have 18 athletes that are all capable of being an impact player and having a breakout year.”
Another preseason concern has been outdoor weather conditions. Since the beginning of the spring semester, school has been canceled due to unsafe weather conditions. Multiple inches of snow and weeks of ice-covered grounds have hindered the team’s ability to practice.
“We are very fortunate to have an indoor facility that allows us to hit, pitch, and do infield glove work when the weather is bad,” Rose said. “The lack of outdoor practice only affects our ability to practice defense as a team. Our rhythm on defense might take a bit to get into but everyone in our conference has been in the exact same situation.”
Although many Kansas teams are in the same predicament, the lack of outdoor practice will especially pose a challenge in games against out of state opponents.
“We will probably run into some teams early on down in Texas and Oklahoma that have had more practice on a field than we have, but honestly, they do every year,” Rose said. “Weather is something we can’t control so we don’t spend much time dwelling on it. We just prepare the best we can.”
There is still a lot of confidence in this season’s squad from coach Rose. “We have a great group of student-athletes,” Rose said. “If we can do this, we feel like we have a chance to win the conference again and compete for a region ti