MORRIS – When Ashley Phelps graduated from Morris Community High School and decided to continue her softball career at Joliet Junior College, it seemed like it would be a good fit.
No one could predict how good it would turn out, though, as Phelps was recently named to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III All-American second team.
The numbers certainly bear it out, though. Phelps, in her freshman season, batted a team-high .484, recording 74 hits in 153 at bats in aiding the Wolves to a school-record 38 wins this season. She finished with 16 doubles, five home runs and 49 RBIs in
50 games. She struck out only five times in 153 at-bats.
“The thing about Ashley is that she is such a great contact hitter,” JJC coach Kerri O’Shea said. “We know she is going to put the ball in play, so she gives us that consistency we need in the middle of the lineup, whether she is hitting third, fourth or fifth.
“But, even though she is a contact hitter, she still is so strong and hits the ball so hard that she can find a gap even if she is protecting the plate. Hitting is contagious, and she was one of the sparks for our offense all year with the way she hit.”
Phelps’ contributions helped JJC come within a game of advancing to the NJCAA Division III Championships. They lost the Region IV championship to Rock Valley, two games to one, and then Rock Valley went on to win its sixth straight national title. JJC set a school record this year with 38 wins against just 18 losses, a mark that Phelps hopes the team can improve upon next year.
“We knew right away when we got the win record,” she said. “And, when we beat Rock Valley in the Region series, we really felt like we could do it again. It just didn’t work out that way this year. But that just gives us something to shoot for next year.”
Phelps played first base for most of her career at Morris, but after getting through an early-season knee injury, she spent much of the spring at JJC playing third base, which she says is her favorite position on the field. She has already been named a sophomore captain for next year’s team.
“Ashley came in as a freshman and brought us leadership,” O’Shea said. “There were a lot of games where we weren’t hitting, and she would get a hit and start a rally. We are looking forward to having her here another year and having that leadership coming back.”
Phelps just wants to keep improving and further her career, both on and off the field.
“I would like to go to a four-year school and continue my education and my softball career,” she said. “I want to major in secondary education and become a teacher and a coach when I am done playing. And, after beating Rock Valley once in the Region tournament, we heel like we can do it again. It would be nice to get to the national championships.
“The biggest thing about this team is that we got really close, both on and off the field. I knew and played with or against a lot of girls on this team, so it was a fun year. It should be fun next year, too. Everyone that is here wants to be here, so it’s a fun atmosphere, but we also know when to be serious.”
High school softball
Morris’ Dransfeldt, Lines honored: Despite a season in which they won only seven games, the Morris softball team was able to see two of its team members honored as third-team All-State by the Illinois High School Softball Coaches Association. Sophomore Kennedy Dransfeldt, who was a third-team All-Stater last year as well – was third team this year after hitting a team-leading .402 with 19 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.
Freshman Grace Lines was also named third-team All-State, as she hit .396 with 13 runs and eight RBIs. Dransfeldt and Lines were joined by teammate Claire Gugergy on the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East All-Conference team as well.
High school baseball
Five Morris players named All-NIB 12: After finishing with an 8-4 record in their final year in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, the Morris baseball team saw five of its players honored as All-Conference members.
Earning first-team recognition were seniors Jacob Overbeck and Luke Olbrot and juniors Cole Laurie and Zach Reddinger. Senior Chatten Dryfhout was named honorable mention.