PREVIEW: Panthers return experienced bats, gloves

The Monticello High School varsity softball team, first row from left: Tori McDonald, Shay Stephen, Jacqueline Petersen, Reese Cox, Jordyn Patterson, Sydney Hansen and Taylor McDonald. Second row: assistant coach Doug Ries, Lauren Ries, Caitlyn Cruise, Rylee Warthen, Jaelynn Kraus, Aspen Gillmore, Megan James, manager Riley Melchert and head coach Bret McDonald. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Monticello returns plenty of hitting and fielding ability from its softball team that went 20-18 last year, including 10-8 in the River Valley Conference.

     There are 24 girls out for the team, including nine returning letter-winners. Four of those are returning all-conference players.

     “Defensively we have a lot of starters returning, so we should have a good year on defense,” said third-year head coach Bret McDonald. “We don’t have a lot of experience on the mound, and the depth in general is a concern for the team.”

     Returning players include junior outfielder Taylor McDonald, who was Elite all-conference last season after batting .391 with six triples, four doubles, 22 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases.

     Jacqueline Petersen, a senior infielder, made the North Division all-conference team as a utility player. She batted .323 with a home run, five doubles and 22 RBIs.

     Sydney Hansen, a sophomore outfielder, batted .309 with a home run and 16 RBIs. She made the North Division team as well.

     Junior outfielder Caitlyn Cruise was given honorable mention in 2016 after knocking in 11 runs and stealing 16 bases.

     Also back are senior catcher/third baseman Shay Stephen (.336, 22 RBIs), senior infielder Rylee Warthen (.340, 25 RBIs), sophomore pitcher/shortstop Jaelynn Kraus, junior first baseman Lauren Ries, and sophomore outfielder Aspen Gillmore.

     McDonald said the strongest opponents in the RVC are likely to be Cascade, Northeast and Bellevue in the North; Iowa City Regina, Mid-Prairie and Wilton in the South.

     Among the team’s goals, he said, are “to be competitive each night we go out to play, don’t give extra outs on defense, and take advantage of all scoring opportunities.”

     He is assisted by Doug Ries.




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