Daniel Boone softball Coach Jeremy Jenkins anticipated growing pains this season, but the Lady Trailblazers are putting the hurt on opponents. That includes a 12-game winning streak as they head back from winning a tournament in Myrtle Beach over their Spring Break.
Jenkins had to replace three all-conference players, including Big Seven Conference player of the year Jaclyn Jenkins (Milligan College), as well as two league honorable mention players.
But the beats go on. Boone improved to 11-3 on the season by opening play in the Grand Strand Classic at Myrtle Beach with a 7-1 win against North Royalton (Ohio).
Two days earlier, Coach Jeremy Jenkins’ Lady ‘Blazers defeated Dobyns-Bennett 5-1 in the championship game of the East Tennessee Classic.
“We lost a lot of experience,” said Jenkins, who guided Boone to the sectional and was named the Big Seven coach of the year last season. “Some of them had been four-year, three-year and two-year starters. But now it’s somebody else’s turn.
“I really like our freshman class coming in. … We’ve got a lot of young girls coming into our program that we’re really high on.”
Sophomore pitcher Savannah Russell pitched a four-hitter in the Grand Strand Classic opener after pitching a five-hitter against Dobyns-Bennett. Russell and fellow sophomore Megan Ackerman, a right fielder/pitcher, made the All-East Tennessee Classic team.
Ackerman went 4-for-4 and got the win on the mound during a 22-3 defeat of Happy Valley in the ETC.
Boone had some seasoned returners. Senior third baseman Kristen Hall, a three-year starter, was a first team all-conference selection last season.
“She’s going to ETSU to continue to play next year,” Jenkins said.
Senior outfielder Rachel Vittetoe was a second team all-conference pick last season. She was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run in a 16-6 win against Science Hill in the ETC.
It was the Lady Trailblazers’ second win of the week against Science Hill. In its only league game thus far, Boone beat Science Hill 7-4 in Gray on March 21. Freshman pitcher Nickolette Ferguson, whose sister McKenzie played on Boone’s 2012 state runner-up team, hit a home run and got the win in relief of Russell in that one.
Seniors Jaclyn Jenkins and Lexi McDowell and junior Ashley Starnes were all proven players coming into the season. Painter, a middle infielder, is a three-year starter. McDowell, a catcher/outfielder, made the all-district tournament team in 2016. Starnes can play center field or the middle infield slots.
The sophomore class includes outfielders Ashlyn Matherly, McKenzie Gibson and Emma Sanders, and catcher Kayla Hubbard, whose already had a number of multi-hit games.
Junior Kaleigh Utterback has been slowed by an injury. Jenkins expects her bat to make an impact sooner or later.
Shortstop Jaycie Jenkins, middle infielder Makenna Dance and first baseman Greyson Stevens help comprise a formidable freshman class.
Jenkins is off to a torrid start. She was 2-for-3 against Dobyns-Bennett and tallied six hits and seven RBIs in two wins against Happy Valley. She was 2-for-3 with a two-run home run in a victory against Science Hill and 3-for-4 with three RBIs in a defeat of Sullivan South.
“Our younger players have had a lot of success in the younger leagues,” Jeremy Jenkins said. “It may take until tournament time to get all the right pieces together, but I do like the makeup of our team because we’ve got a lot of different things we can do. I’m excited about this team coming together.
“I think they know what the expectations are when you put on that Lady ‘Blazers uniform and they know when you cross the lines what’s expected of you.”