PREVIEW: Seven returning letter-winners to guide Panthers

The Monticello High School varsity softball team, first row from left: Mallory Steiner, Piper Hansen, Jaelynn Kraus, DeLainy Fellinger, Reese Cox and Taylor McDonald. Second row: assistant coach Doug Ries, manager Bronwyn Hodge, Sydney Hansen, Caitlyn Cruise, Aspen Gillmore, Lauren Ries, Tori McDonald, manager Maci Boffeli and head coach Bret McDonald. Not pictured is Megan James. (Photos by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     A solid group of returning letter-winners – seven in all – will lead the Monticello High School softball team during the 2018 season.

     Those seven include three players who made the All-River Valley Conference team last year.

     One of those is senior centerfielder/shortstop Taylor McDonald, who was the lone Panther to make the Elite all-conference team last year. McDonald led the team in batting average at .484, in stolen bases with 24, and tied for the team lead in doubles with 10.

     Junior Jaelynn Kraus, who can pitch, play shortstop or outfield, hit .430 with 10 doubles and 20 runs batted in. Kraus had a 7-5 pitching record with a team-best earned run average of 3.53. Senior Lauren Ries hit .260 and anchored the team at first base.

     Also returning are senior pitcher/outfielder Caitlyn Cruise (six pitching wins), junior infielder/outfielders Sydney Hansen (.330 average) and Aspen Gillmore (.295), and freshman catcher/shortstop Tori McDonald (caught five runners stealing).

     “We have some good leaders, and that will be a strength of the team,” fourth-year coach Bret McDonald said. “I feel our defense is also going to be one of our strengths.”

     Last year, the Panthers went 8-9 in the conference, 14-15 overall. They scored an 8-3 win over Anamosa in the regional quarterfinals before falling to Mount Vernon in the semifinal round.

     This summer, Cruise and Kraus will lead the pitching staff.

     “Caitlyn and Jaelynn have only one full year of experience, so they are still learning,” coach McDonald said.

     Monticello plays in a tough conference. The South Division, McDonald said, “is going to be really tough this year.”

     In the North, where the Panthers play, Camanche, Bellevue and Cascade will be strong opponents, he said.

     “As a team we really want to be competitive in all of our games,” the coach said. “We want to make every inning count and not give any extra outs.

     “We have been focusing in practice on learning each other, and our communication skills.”

     He is assisted by Doug Ries and Kim McQuillen.



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