JACKSON — For the better part of the 2010’s, Jackson softball regularly sat atop the conference standings when the dust settled.
Now that it’s the 2020’s, it wants more than just conference titles.
And now under new leadership with Mack Thompson taking over the program, its ready to claim more than just conference crowns.
“This has been a pretty successful program that has won league titles and some sectionals before,” Thompson said. “That is still an expectation, but why can’t we win more? What’s stopping us from winning a district and going on a long tournament run? Those things should be possible and hopefully we can start that trend this season.”
Despite losing a good amount of experienced players due to the 2020 lost season because of COVID-19, the Ironladies are fortunate enough to bring back one of the best players in Southern Ohio to the circle as Taylor Evans returns for her senior year.
During her sophomore season, Evans went 13-5 with a 1.19 ERA. She struck out 166 hitters in 111 ⅓ innings.
“She has the freedom to call different pitches if she says something that I don’t,” Thompson said. “We’re learning one another in how I call pitches and what she wants to throw. She’s an unbelievable player, and a leader on the field.
“The thing for me is I don’t expect her to go out and get 15 strikeouts a game. While she’s more than capable of doing so, we just want her to be consistent, locate and let the defense make plays behind her.”
The other senior on the team, Maddie Baxter, takes over behind the plate to form an upperclassmen duo.
“She played some catcher before, and I told her that she’s that person this year. I think it’s important to have someone with experience catching as well as someone who meshes well with your pitcher,” Thompson said.
Surrounding the duo in the infield will be Leah Alford, Gabby Webb, Haley Simmonds and Cloe Michael.
In the outfield, Hannah Merrill, Makayla Wyant and Meghann McGee cover all the ground. Also look for Tory Shortridge and Alana Mathews to see action this year for the Ironladies.
“The biggest things for us is that we just needs reps because we’re so young and somewhat inexperienced,” Thompson said. “We have four starters back from two years ago, no one else has played varsity softball. And a lot of teams are dealing with that, but this is a fun group of girls and we’re building chemistry day by day.
“But at all comes downing to hitting the ball and playing solid defense. If we do that every game and shake off mental errors, I believe we can accomplish some good things.”
The conference titles are great, and winning sectionals are great. But the Ironladies want more this season. They want to be a factor inside of Division II and have the ingredients to do so.
It all comes down to how fast they grow up from an experience standpoint, and how they improve game by game on the field.
“The jump we made from the first scrimmage to our second one was unbelievable, and it made me excited,” Thompson said. “That’s the improvement we want to see day in and day out. Our goal is to still win the conference and win sectionals. After that, we’ll see how far we can go.”
Jackson opens its season on Saturday in a doubleheader at Rock Hill.