Veteran Timberwolves primed for another playoff run | SoftballSophomore standout exceling in her new role as No. 1 pitcher
The Jackson softball team really only had one question coming into the 2017 season.
Wolfpack graduate Sophie Frost, now at Cal State Fullerton, dominated the pitching circle the last four years, leading the Timberwolves to the state tournament the last two seasons.
“Obviously, I think the question mark was what was going to happen in the circle,” Jackson coach Kyle Peacocke said.
The Timberwolves turned to a familiar face, sophomore Iyanla Pennington, who started at third base last year but who didn’t pitch much.
Pennington has responded by leading Jackson to a perfect start – 3-0 in the Wesco 4A and 8-0 overall. Three of the victories were against 4A state champion Snohomish (which is now a 3A school), Glacier Peak (a 3A school which played in last year’s 4A state tourney) and Monroe (a team that advanced to last year’s district tournament).
“Iyanla has been fantastic, better than I would have anticipated in terms of her composure,” Peacocke said. “She’s had some real big tests early on against Snohomish, Monroe and Glacier Peak. She did well in all those games.”
Pennington is a power pitcher, who throws hard but who also delivers a variety of pitches – screw ball, curve and rise ball.
“She’s developing a change-up,” Peacocke added. “If she can be consistent, she’s going to be tough to hit.”
The Wolfpack are aiming to win their third straight district championship and with many players from the two previous teams back, Jackson should be a strong contender.
“The girls take a lot of pride in that,” Peacocke said. “They like to see themselves defend that title.”
Pennington has been backed up with a defense that has committed only one error so far. Junior Sam Mutolo returns at catcher, along with junior shortstop Kristina Day and first baseman Taylor Adams. Freshman third baseman Kassidi Dean and second basemen Mollie Hickman and Jessica Asantor have played well. Senior centerfielder Anlison Endreson anchors the outfield flanked by freshman Jillian Hampson, sophomore Macy Tarbox, senior Emily Mackay and sophomore Maddy Hanson. Senior Maddy Podnar is expected to contribute in a variety of roles – pitcher, first base, designated player.
“She’s an effective change of pace pitcher,” Peacocke said. “She’s a good hitter. She’ll be helping us out quite a bit.”
Jackson has more talented players than positions.
“I’ve 16 players on varsity. They all deserve to start,” Peacocke said. “I don’t have room for all of them to play all the time.”
Even so, the Timberwolves don’t complain about playing time. It’s all about the team.
“We’re building really good team chemistry and unity,” Peacocke said. “The juniors and seniors continue to pass it on to the younger kids. … The girls, really since day one, have been a really tight unit.”
The weather has hampered the Wolfpack’s power numbers early on.
“It’s hard to get in a groove,” Peacocke said.
But the Timberwolves haven’t had problems scoring runs with 10 or more in four of the eight contests.
“As a team we know we can hit home runs,” Peacocke said. “We want to have line drives and hit the ball in the gaps. As a team we’re doing a good job of hitting hard ground balls and line drives.”