Yaks miss out on playoffs but look to build
While neither Yakima Valley College’s baseball nor softball teams qualified for playoffs in 2023, there were plenty of learning opportunities for the young teams with head coaches in their first year.
The Yaks entered the final weekend of the baseball season in position to secure the final playoff spot from the NWAC East but faltered in the final doubleheader versus Big Bend Community College. The team finished in sixth place in the East Region, compiling a 13-15 record in conference play (19-31 overall).
“We are proud of this group for banding together after some key injuries threw us off course over the preseason,” said Head Coach Ben Krueger.
After early season struggles, Krueger said the Yaks pitching staff got onto more firm footing by the beginning of conference play.
“The coaching staff was impressed with freshmen pitchers Zaid Flynn and Rece Allensworth, who both matured quickly since stepping foot on campus,” he said. “Third-year sophomore Jagger Harris and redshirt freshman Tyler Disch anchored the bullpen down the stretch run and gave us a chance to win.”
While the team missed out on the playoffs, players showed their heart and dedication.
“The Yaks played meaningful baseball all the way down to the very last inning of our final conference game,” Krueger said. “Roaring back from a 6-run deficit to tie the game in the 8th on the road against Big Bend, we were truly proud of our club’s resiliency.”
Offensively, Krueger congratulated freshman utility player Peyton Rickard for earning Second Team All-NWAC East honors with a productive conference season after playing sparingly in the preseason. In addition, he noted freshmen outfielders Matthew Sauve and Kyle Williamson showed promise and grew tremendously throughout the course of the season.
Krueger said he and his coaching staff are thrilled to welcome their first recruiting class to campus in the fall, featuring players from Washington, Idaho, Montana and Australia.
“A major emphasis was to build a competitive environment for players to compete in the fall,” he said. “We have the right returners back to lead this group and model the H.E.R.D. [mentality] next season. There will be an array of opportunities for talented players to leave their mark on the Yaks baseball program in 2024.”
Softball team shows potential
Softball Head Coach Jason Weatherly said the Yaks enjoyed a productive campaign, especially with the team having to adjust to a coaching change at the end of the fall quarter.
“The team spent the winter getting to know each other, adjusting to a different coaching style and came ready to play this spring,” Weatherly said.
The softball team finished the season in seventh place in the East Region with a 9-23 conference record (13-27 overall) and three players receiving All-NWAC East recognition: Freshman Madison Kennedy on the First Team and sophomore Helina Hahn and freshman Alyssa Sosky on the Second Team.
Early in the season, Weatherly said the team got a glimpse of its potential during an 11-3 victory over Columbia Basin College, which included the team producing two doubles, a triple and stealing four bases.
“I think that game proved to ourselves that we could play with anyone in the NWAC,” Weatherly said.
“We were close to making the NWAC tournament this season, a few wins here and there would have made the difference,” he said. “With the sophomore class having a year of experience and with the freshman class we have coming in, I think we are going to be in a good position to make a strong run at making the tournament in 2024.”