Softball Preview: Jayettes look to build momentum sooner with vet talent

Sean Cordy
Correspondent

As the Jayettes’ 4-0 playoff upset over Gilbert showed last season, Perry is more than capable of reversing the script. With virtually the entire team returning, the team hopes to get the ball rolling sooner than last year.

Playmakers

Undoubtedly leading the charge is sophomore Lydia Olejniczak. Batting .405 and hitting four home runs as an eighth-grader earned her all-state honors in 2019. As a freshman, her rate dropped down to .333 and only had one home run. Even with those numbers, her overall effectiveness last season puts her on the right trajectory as a sophomore thanks to the extra speed she tapped into.

Lydia Olejniczak looks to throw the ball to a teammate on Monday, May 24.

Hitting for 26 total bases, Olejniczak added a perfect 13-of-13 steals to improve her power-speed number by five points to rank fifth in the conference. Should she bump her batting average up to 2019 levels, she’s primed to be one of the most effective players in the state.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen her work harder,” head coach Tina Lutterman said. “Last year she had some issues with her eye and I feel like she’s managing it and is aware. She’s making the steps to take extra practice and doing what she needs.”

Hoping to drive in Olejniczak for more runs this year is Jayna Kenney who led the team with eight RBIs and was first on the team with a .414 on-base percentage while batting second in the order. Not far behind, Macy Killmer was third on the team with 15 hits, all singles.

Jayna Kenney waits for the pitch on Monday, May 24 during a home game against Carlisle.

Follow the Metrics

There is plenty of room for Perry to move up in the standings and the Jayettes’ have last season to back up that potential. Unable to keep up with slugging teams like Boone or Winterset in the Raccoon River Conference, Perry was the very definition of small ball.

Among returning players, the Jayettes rank second-highest in the RRC with 63 percent of their total bases coming from base singles. On top of that, they rank third with two steals per 10 bases. Ranked last in both OPS+ and weighted on-base average, simply getting on base and stealing whenever possible became a survival instinct in 2020. While easier said than done, any positive movement getting extra-base hits could pay dividends for Perry’s win total.

“Our hitters are stronger in general. Physically stronger,” Lutterman explained. “We’ve done a little bit more with live pitching this preseason and tried something live every day. So they’re more used to seeing it. They had a strong spring season.”

Jasmine Shriver gets a high-five from coach Tina Lutterman on Monday, May 24.

In six of seven games Perry scored four runs or more, the Jayettes had an on-base percentage of at least .390 and seven total bases. Any lower and the Jayettes never crossed three runs in a game. Now with virtually the whole crew back together in the same position in the batting order and on the field, Lutterman hopes to see those numbers climb.

Streak to Know

The Jayettes have hit a rough patch over the last few years. Since peaking with 26+ wins in 2016 and 2017, Perry's win total has declined three years in a row and is 18-62 overall. 

State of the Conference

Of the 10 teams in the RRC, eight of them had winning records. Only Perry and Carroll fell below the .500 threshold. That same stiff competition should remain intact as conference champ Carlisle and Ballard are the only two teams that saw more than half their production graduate. With that in mind, Class 3A state champ Winterset’s young roster led by Jena Young lost all of 10 percent of its runs and should be dominant again. Bondurant-Farrar will also be gunning for the RRC crown. Before their season wrapped due to COVID-19, the Bluejays were one of the hottest teams around and actually beat Winterset.

Coach Tina Lutterman talks with members of the Jayettes softball team during the season opener.