If you’re a fan of good softball and you haven’t seen the Jasper Eagles play yet this spring, you’re missing out.
Jasper, who hosts Osceola at 4:30 p.m. today in a non-conference game, has rolled to a 7-0 overall record and a 3-0 mark in conference play so far. But with more than a dozen games remaining, the Eagles look to only get better as the season goes on.
“We still haven’t played as good as we can,” Jasper head coach David Osborne said this week. “There’s a lot more potential than what we’ve shown so far. We really haven’t hit that good. Autumn (Frickenschmidt) hasn’t been Autumn yet, even though she’s thrown a no-hitter, she still could be better. There are times when we don’t show enough effort. We’ve relied on talent to win a few games. There’s still a lot of work to do. There are a lot of things we could get better at. I’m sure we will, it’s still really early in the season.”
The Eagles return seven starters and 11 letterwinners from a season ago.
“We’ve been able to break up into two practices with a junior varsity practice and a varsity practice,” Osborne said. “The JV has really stepped up and has done well. We’re fairly pleased so far.”
Frickenschmidt has been one of the early highlights. Her no-hitter March. 27 at Greenfield was the second of her career, and she’s only a sophomore. In the Greenfield game, she pitched five innings and struck out eight.
“She has a great attitude,” Osborne said. “Anything I ask, she does it to a T. She’s a great person to be around. Even as a freshman she was a team leader. Not really so much verbally, but with her actions. Her and a few others have brought the level of our softball up greatly. I feel pretty lucky to have her.”
For the season, Frickenschmidt is 7-0 with 50 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched. She has allowed just 37 hits, and only six extra base hits.
She said throwing her second no-hitter “feels pretty good.”
“I’m aiming for at least one a year, so I’ve already got one this year and we’re just six games in,” she said this week. “I don’t really think about it too much. I just go after the batters and after the games they’ll tell me if I threw a no-hitter. I’m not aware of it during a game.”
Frickenschmidt said her pitching strategy is to pay close attention to hitters when they’re up for the first time.
“I see where they can foul it off, which pitch not to throw,” she said. “Coach Osborne does a good job of calling them.”
Page 2 of 3 - “I just love it,” she said. “I love being the center of attention. I don’t get flustered out there easily. It’s not stressful at all. I just love it. The defense is pretty key. If I don’t have a right fielder to catch pop flies, then it doesn’t make my job worth anything.”
Of course, having a pitcher like Frickenschmidt who can throw a no-hitter on any given day makes winning a little bit easier, and Osborne said she is an “obvious strength” of the team, but she isn’t the only reason the Eagles have seen so much success.
“Autumn will tell you she’s not the whole team,” Osborne said. “We’ve got very solid girls around her who have stepped up and done their job.”
There is Kali Sloan, a sophomore catcher. Through six games she’s batting .364 with nine runs scored.
“She has caught every one of Autumn’s games in her career,” Osborne said.
Sophomore Adi Etcheson plays first base. She’s batting .429 with six stolen bases.
“She has started just about every game at first base since she was a freshman,” Osborne said.
At second base, Jasper has sophomore Elizabeth Dickson, who has scored for runs, driven in three and stolen three bases.
“She has started every game at second that I can remember,” Osborne said.
Senior Amanda Darrow anchors the infield defense at short stop. She will continue her career with Neosho County Community College, and is batting.579 with 10 runs and four RBI’s.
“She’s a college-level player,” Osborne said.
Darrow’s freshman sister, Rebecca, plays third base.
“She has really come on strong the last few games,” Osborne said.
In the outfield, junior Abbie Smith plays right field, and is batting .476 with 10 hits, second only to Darrow.
“She has probably one of the best swings on the team, a beautiful swing,” Osborne said. “She’s excellent in the outfield.”
In center field, the Eagles have junior Malia Potts.
“She started playing when she was a freshman and she’s really a product of the program,” Osborne said. “She’ll tell you she wasn’t very good at the beginning as a freshman, and now she’s starting on what I like to think is a pretty good team.”
Kirstin Winchester, a senior, starts for Jasper in left field.
“She’s an excellent hitter with a good attitude,” Osborne said.
The Eagles are a deeper team than just nine players, though.
“We’ve got some competition for some spots, too,” Osborne said. “I’ve got two other seniors who have seen a lot of playing time. Kylin Garvin is a left-handed left fielder who started for us all last year. She’s been gone quite a bit this year and is just a little bit behind. Lexi Babcock could play anywhere for us. She’s been hitting for Rebecca (Darrow).”
Page 3 of 3 - Amanda Darrow, who signed with NCCC in January, said the strength of the team is that the players never give up. She mentions a game last season where the Eagles found themselves down7-0 with two outs in the final inning, and came back to win.
“We don’t know how to give up,” she said. “We like to win. I think it’s the character of the team. We all came in and we want to play hard, we don’t want to lose. At all costs we win.”
Darrow, who is also using the spring to become more versatile in the field, as well as working on her speed and power at the plate, said it’s been a “pretty cool” experience getting to play varsity softball with her little sister.
“I probably treat her more like myself than anybody else,” she said. “She appreciates it. She knows I’m not being mean to her, because I love the game so much I just want her to love it too, and have fun and play hard.”
With no playoffs in Missouri for spring softball, Osborne said the Eagles can win the conference, win the Jasper Invitational Softball Tournament on April 21, and win the Golden City Invitational on May 7th and 8th.
The Eagles host Golden City at 4:30 p.m. Friday in another conference game.
“They’re pretty important games for us as far as accomplishing our goals for the year,” he said.
Osborne also said much of the team’s success is due to its assistant coaches, Donna Brewster and Kristin Gilpin.
“Donna Brewster, she’s been with me through thick and thin,” he said. “This is her fourth year and I wouldn’t trade her for anybody. Great support. She gets along with the girls great and does anything I ask and more. Kristin Gilpin is new this year. She’s helping out and is a first-year teacher who has really added a lot of technical things for us, a lot of little stuff that helps out a lot. They have been great. Nobody appreciates them as much as they should. They don’t get paid what they should. They’re a big part of the reason we are like we are.”