Let’s get it out of the way right off the bat…Abi Chipps graduated. After four years, she’s taken her skills to Indiana State University where she’ll do great things. But as far as 2020 is concerned, the Jefferson Blue Jays still have quite a bit of talent that is sure to have opponents wary each time the Blue Jays come up on the schedule.
Head coach Robert Kuehnle says the absence of Chipps in the lineup for the first time in five years is a reality. “There is no doubt that not having Abi will be something we will have to deal with, but I think that our offensive game will be very similar to last year. We’re really just looking to barrel up the ball as much as possible.
Losing Chipps and three other graduated seniors in Joceline Falkengren, Rachel Westhoff, and Nehley Ervin is sure to make a dent in Jefferson’s armor. “I think the loss of our seniors is going to be felt,” Kuehnle admitted. “But we have a lot of experience coming back, and we should be a tough game to a lot of teams. Really, the goal is to be competitive in every game, and give ourselves a shot to win.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. After finishing 12-10 in 2019, and losing in the district semifinals, the Blue Jays have another four-year starter to look to for leadership in Catryn Cattoor. Very few teams, regardless of size, have a returnee like Cattoor. She hit .646 last season with a 1.154 slugging percentage. She had 19 extra base hits (ten doubles, four triples, and five homers), while driving home 36. In 77 plate appearances, she struck out just two times. “She’s dominant both defensively and offensively,” Coach Kuehnle stated.
But Kuehnle thinks he’s got others that will make this year’s Jefferson squad a force. “Morgan Figliolo is a lockdown defender with a great stick. Cami Menke is the same, while Maggie Brunke is fearless, and she’s really hitting the ball well. Sydney Stewart and Brittany Bittick are great outfielders, and Allison Campbell will be coming back after a great freshman year. Megan Payne also returns and does a great job in the circle.”
Coach Kuehnle said it’s tough to know exactly how the team will come together once the schedule starts to unfold, but he sees the team’s strength on the defensive side of things. But he also believes his offense has the potential to break games open.
And as always, there always seems to be a player that comes out of camp and practice as a contributor. “We have a great group of freshmen who are eager and ready to learn, and some of the sophomores coming back have really stepped up their game,” Kuehnle admitted. “There is some serious competition for playing time, and that is really all you can ask for as a coach.”