MILL CREEK — As they did a year ago, the Jackson softball team’s playoff fortunes likely will rise and fall with its offense.
A year ago a key injury and a lack of production hampered the Wolfpack late in the season and as a consequence, the Timberwolves just missed out on the postseason.
Senior outfielder Ashley Loose, who was sidelined the final six games of the season due to an injury, returns as the leadoff hitter and is a key part of the Jackson offense.
“She’s going to be the one to make us go. That’s for sure,” said second-year Wolfpack coach Mike Moran. “She got hurt and didn’t play (the last six games) … that hurt us a lot. She needs to be in there for us to go.”
Other key hitters for Jackson include senior outfielder and captain Jacki Hansen and sophomore pitcher Rachel Koenig-Eng.
The Timberwolves’ lineup is a mix of different types of hitters.
“We have some kids that can run but we also have some kids that have a little pop in their bat,” Moran said. “I wouldn’t say we’re long ball … I would say if we get our speed on we should be able to score some runs.
“I like the way we swing our bats. We’re just going to see what the season brings. We’ve got to produce when we get the chances.”
Jackson’s pitching is solid with the return of junior Meaghan Craig and Koenig-Eng. Craig saw most of the action last season as Koenig-Eng’s freshman season was cut short by a knee injury.
“I think they’ll do well,” Hansen predicted.
Koenig-Eng only saw action in a handful of games but appears to be fully recovered.
“She seems at full strength,” Moran said.
Craig has been slowed by a muscle pull in the preseason but also appears ready to go.
“(Pitching) should be one of the strengths of our team,” Moran said.
Moran anticipates that he will rotate between his two pitchers, who have contrasting styles. At some point of the season, Moran may anoint one or the other as the No. 1 starter.
“We’ll see what the season brings as far as if one’s going to get more time than the other,” he said.
Moran has no concerns about pitching or defense.
“Our pitchers will do fine. I’m excited about our defense,” he said. “We just need to score some runs obviously and we should be OK.”
Hanson and Loose are two of a quartet of seniors who are providing solid leadership for what is a relatively young team. The four seniors are joined by four juniors and three sophomores.
A number of freshmen will divide their time between the junior varsity and varsity squads.
“We’re fairly young but we have a lot of experience,” Moran said.
Hansen expects the freshmen to have an impact on the varsity team this season.
“The freshman class has a lot of talent this year,” she said. “So definitely in the years to come we’re going to be really good.
“They can really help our team.”
Despite having to spend time in the gym due to the wet weather, Jackson has been able to accomplish a lot during the preseason, according to Hansen, who is headed to Stanford on a softball scholarship.
“We’ve got people working hard this year and really … trying to be a little more focused this year,” she said.
But the intangibles ultimately are going to be determine the Timberwolves’ success this season.
“It all depends on how we come together and play and how our team chemistry is,” Hansen said. “We have a lot of talent, a lot of good players. It all just depends on how we put it together.”