By Hutchinson CC Sports Information
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – With several key pieces returning from one of the top seasons in Hutchinson Community College softball history in 2022, the 2023 Blue Dragons begin a season as a nationally ranked team for the first time in 35 years.
The Blue Dragons were ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA Preseason Division I national rankings, which were released on Monday. This is the first time since the Blue Dragons started a season ranked in the preseason national rankings since 1989 when they were ranked No. 16 to start that season.
Last year the Blue Dragons started the season unranked, but a 22-4 start to the season vaulted the Blue Dragons into the poll and they never left. The Dragons closed last season at No. 15.
One year ago, the Blue Dragons went 41-8 overall, finished second in the Jayhawk Conference and third in the Region VI Tournament. The Dragons earned two victories over Region VI champion Butler along the way. Butler starts the 2023 season ranked seventh in the NJCAA Rankings.
Starting her 19th season at Hutchinson, head coach Jaime Rose has a strong returning group led by two All-Americans, three returning everyday starters and the bulk of one of the best pitching staffs in team history.
Super-sophomore Madison Grimes returns for a third season to lead the Blue Dragons. Grimes was a freshman All-American and 2021 KJCCC Freshman of the Year. She is a .460 career batter with 143 hits, 16 home runs and 119 RBIS.
Joining Grimes as returning starters are infielder Ella Dougherty (.399, 51 runs, 14 doubles, 31 RBIs), catcher Allie Stipsits (.364, four home runs, 23 RBIs) and first baseman Aspen Goetz (.309, seven home runs, 39 RBIs). Riley Wertz was the designated player last season. She hit .339 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs.
Wertz and left-handed starting pitcher Emily Munson will lead the Blue Dragons in the circle this season.
Last season, Wertz led the nation with nine saves and posted a 13-1 record with a 1.35 earned-run average. She had 152 strikeouts on 82 2-3 innings.
Munson was 10-1 with a 2.49 ERA last season. She worked a team-high 101 1-3 innings with 56 strikeouts.
Right-handed super sophomore Kierstan Weitze, who is in her second season with the Blue Dragons after spending the 2021 season at Highland, was 9-2 last season with a 3.31 ERA.
The Blue Dragons are scheduled to open the season on Saturday at Fun Valley with the Ottawa University Junior Varsity.
NJCAA Division I Softball
|1. Florida SouthWestern State (8)|
4. Seminole State (OK)
5. Wallace State-Hanceville
6. Chattanooga State
9. Central Arizona
10. Southern Idaho
11. Pensacola State
12. Central Florida
13. Indian Hils
18. Lake Land
19. Eastern Arizona
20. San Jacinto