Veteran Timberwolves set sights on another state title | Softball
Last updated 3/15/2019 at Noon
The Jackson softball team is laser-focused on the upcoming season, rather than reveling in the past.
That’s not good news for the rest of the Wesco 4A as the defending state champions appear just as motivated to win a second title as they were to win their first last year.
Senior pitcher Iyanla “Ice” Pennington, who was named the 4A state player of the year by Washington State Softball Coaches Association, returns to lead a Wolfpack squad that only graduated three seniors, all of whom are continuing their softball careers in college.
“We’re not really looking at it so much as a repeat,” said Pennington, who has committed to Coastal Carolina. “We’re more looking at winning state like we never won it in the past. We’re focusing on once again pushing each other.”
Pennington said that the major reason the Timberwolves experienced the success they did last season was due to all of the hard work day in and day out.
“When we’re at practice, we’re competing against one another just to push each other even further past what we thought we could do,” the Jackson co-captain said. “This year we’re going to try and do the same thing.”
In preparation for her senior season, Pennington, with the help of her father, did a lot weight training, building up the strength in her legs and upper body.
It’s early but Jackson coach and 4A state coach of the year Kyle Peacocke has noticed a difference.
“I think she’s throwing a little bit harder than she was last year,” Peacocke said.
It’s hard to quantify how much Pennington means to the team.
Co-captain Jessica Asantor describes her teammate as the rock of the Timberwolves.
“She is the one person on this team that everybody respects,” Asantor said. “She is just incredible on the field and she’s such a good leader.”
As of last week, Peacocke and his coaching staff had yet to settle on who is taking over at catcher (Sam Mutolo), shortstop (Kristina Day) and center field (Braylin Jenson).
“You can’t replace those kids necessarily, but we have a lot of kids who’ve been waiting for their turn, their opportunity to jump in there,” Peacocke said. “So they’re excited about it.”
The rest of the starting lineup is back with first baseman Laina Delgado, second baseman Asantor, third baseman Kassidi Dean and outfielders Julia Dillon and Macy Tarbox.
Asantor’s ties with Day go back years, so being on the field without her former teammate is going to be different.
“I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” Asantor said. “We just have a really good group of girls. Really anybody can play there. We’re trying to figure out who is going to solidify the infield.”
The talent pool is deep in the Jackson program. Peacocke noted that 30 players are on various select teams and he estimates that half of the junior varsity would be starting on a lot of other teams in the area.
Asantor said that team chemistry also played a key role in last year’s state title run.
“Our chemistry was just so spot on,” the Jackson co-captain said. “We had the best communication with each other. We had the best chemistry with each other, so when we were out on the field, everybody knew where to go, everybody knew who was going to do what in the field and where to go.
“We just really had that connection with each other.”
With all but three players returning and the state’s best pitcher in the circle, Jackson has every reason to be confident if not overconfident.
Co-captain Tarbox said that the Timberwolves guard against that by being humble.
“State was last year and 2019 is a new year,” Tarbox said. “What we need to do is focus on the season that is in front of us before we can start focusing on state and the postseason. Obviously, the end goal is to repeat, but we really need to focus on how to get there first.”
Pennington added that she sees a difference between overconfidence and being confident in your ability to do your job well.
“Once you’re overconfident, you’re beating yourself,” the Jackson senior said. “You should never underestimate the other team.”