WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West Community and College softball team had players donning gloves, swinging bats and contemplating the 2020 season that was just around the corner. There was a new coach, Jeff Jager. But before they could play their first game, the season was canceled due to COVID-19. There was nothing to do except wait for 2021.
And now it’s here. The Lady Jays will indeed have a season, and Jager -- who is back -- says he and his team can’t be more ready.
“We’re excited to get going,” he said just a few days ago on a sunny but cool spring day. “We’re down on numbers, which maybe will make it a little bit of a struggle. It’s just something that we’ve got to work through. The girls that are here, they’re working hard, they’re doing everything they’re expected to do, so that makes me excited for the season.”
West has 11 players officially on the squad, including about five of them who don’t have softball experience. But the players that do have experience also have lots of talent.
Stephanie Kazemba, from Round Lake, hails from a family of softball players and she’s a pitcher who can also play shortstop. “She’s a complete player. Very excited to have her on the team,” said Jager.
Alanna Goetzinger, from Chatfield, is a pitcher and first baseman. She is powerful as a hitter and as a pitcher, throwing in the low 60s with a good changeup. And she’s another hard worker with a good attitude.
Brianna Ihnen, from Lake Park, Iowa, will play third base. Jager sees her as a consistent hitter with a good approach to the game.
Three others who recently ended their Minnesota West basketball seasons include Mallory Thorson (Luverne), Grace Suttle (Crooks, S.D.) and Emily Wilke (Le Sueur). All three have softball experience. Thorson, who’s blessed with speed, will play centerfield. Suttle will catch and Wilke will play first base and hold down other utility positions.
Jager, a liaison officer at Central Lyon/George-Little Rock High School, planned to take his team to its first game Tuesday (April 13) at MState-Fergus Falls. He likes the way his players take their swings in practice.
“I do think we’ll hit the ball. I do think our offense will be able to compete at any level. And I think our pitching will be really good,” he said. As for defense, he said, “We’re going to rely on these girls who have experience to pick ‘em up.”