Former Star Jeananne Ruck Leads Softball into 2017
SAN LUIS OBISPO (February 8, 2017)— Cuesta College hired Jeananne Ruck (1st Year) as Cuesta Softball's Head Coach for the 2017 campaign. Ruck is the program's seventh head coach and sixth over the past nine seasons. The former Cuesta Star, NAIA All American and, two-time NAIA National Champion leads a promising squad into the 2017 season. The Cougars returns four players from the 2016 campaign, including 2016 All Western State Conference First Team Pitcher Demi Danell (Hanford), and adds a versatile, talented and fleet of foot group of newcomers. Coach Ruck is excited about her debut season on the bench, but also very positive about the team she is leading into the 2017 campaign. She says, “How fun! I am learning their personalities and enjoy relating to the players! This team is so coachable. They play with purpose and are willing to push each other.” She has tried to keep it simple and notes, “The coach pushes details. The team buys in and it is team first. They get that.” One thing Coach Ruck has pushed is defense and she says simply, “It is about defense. We have to play up to our level. Defense wins championships!”
Last year, the Cougars missed the post-season after being swept in a doubleheader on the final day of 2016 season, but had reached the playoffs the previous two seasons. The Western State Conference North Division has been expanded from seven to nine teams this season, which increases the competition for the loop’s two automatic playoff berths.
The Cougars opened the 2017 campaign in Fresno on January 28th by sweeping a home doubleheader against West Hills. The also swept a pair from Reedley, before splitting a twinbill with Hartnell last week. The Cougars, at 5-1, Cougars host Sacrmaento for two games this on Saturday (11/1 PM).
2016 Cuesta Team MVP Demi Danell (Hanford) is expected to carry the load again this season. Danell was selected to the 2016 Western State Conference First Team and will handle the bulk of the Cougars pitching and bat in the middle of the order. Danell was 20-10 with a 1.54 ERA as a freshman and is on the verge of putting together an historic career at Cuesta. She is in range of several school pitching and hitting marks. Her 25 career victories, she picked up five victories to start the season, are only five off Kelly Scott’s (1999-00) record of 30 and she is also in range of career marks for innings pitched, games pitched and, strikeouts. Danell also led the Cougars with a .415 batting average last season, which is 9th all time at Cuesta, and paced the team with 32 runs batted in. Coach Ruck noted, “She has good hands at the plate.” Danell is also an adept fielder and will move to one of the corner infield spots, when not in the pitching circle. Fellow Sophomore Kassi Sanchez (Palmdale) has also moved back into the pitching circle after a three-year layoff. Sanchez played exclusively in the outfield, but has stepped back into the pitching circle to give the Cougars some depth. Sanchez has shown promise early in the season and should see significant innings, however the Cougars expect Danell to pitch most of the important innings. Ruck says, “Kassi works hard and is the first there and last to leave. She is pitching well after a long layoff and keeps the ball low. She has a nice natural drop on her ball.”
The other half of the Cougars’ battery should help make Danell even tougher this season. Cuesta’s backstops allowed 30 passed balls last season and opponent’s baserunners were successful on 27 of 31 stolen base attempts. The Cougars plan to use a trio of catchers led by Cal Poly transfer Dayna Manser (Fresno). Manser was a three-time all league selection as a prep, but has spent the past three years attending Cal Poly. Ruck says, “She has a great arm. No one will run on her.” Manser is also expected to add power to the line-up and may spend time chasing flyballs in the outfield. Freshman Kaitlin Doty (Templeton HS) adds another power hitter to the Cougars’ batting order. She is a solid receiver, who can also play in the outfield. Ruck says, “She is good hitter. She will get the bat on the ball.” The versatile Mackenzie Jacobsen (Hanford HS) will also be used as a backstop. Ruck says, “She has a great arm and quick hands.” Sophomore Madi Zelenski (Palmdale) also spent time behind the plate last season.
Sophomore Mariah Solis (Arroyo Grande HS) and Freshman Taylor Rasmusson (Pine Grove) form a right-left platoon at first base, however the Cougars expect both to be in the line-up every day and will move one to the outfield or designated hitter spot. Solis was the Cougars’ regular first baseball last season and is regarded for her patience at the plate. She led the Cougars with 14 walks last season and owned an impressive .333 on-base percentage, while displaying a deft glove to anchor the infield. Cuesta hopes to see more offense from her this season; she began her freshman season on fire by hitting over .300 the first month, but tailed off over the last two months to end with a .215 overall average. Ruck says, “Mariah has shown dramatic improvement and has confidence at the plate.” Rasmusson adds athleticism and the squad’s only bat from the left side. She was an all-League softball and volleyball player at Amador High and is very competitive. Ruck says, “She is a scrapper. She is very coachable and plays hard.” The Cougars can also move Demi Danell (Hanford) when she is not in the pitching circle, while Sophomore Madi Zelenski (Palmdale) can also play both corner infield spots.
Freshmen Mackenzie Jacobsen (Hanford HS) and Valerie Vega (Delano) will both spend time at second base this season. Jacobsen led Hanford High the Valley Championship and was an all-West Yosemite League First Teamer. Ruck says, “She will always be in the line-up. She has speed and range (at second base). She is also a complete hitter. She hits for power and average.” Vega was an all-League First Teamer at Cesar Chavez High and is one of the team’s most complete players and a natural team leader. Ruck says, “She has a contagious laugh and just keeps the team loose. She can play anywhere and has a good glove,” Ruck continued, “She uses the whole field batting and is patient.
Freshmen Valerie Vega (Delano) and Sophomore Madi Zelenski (Palmdale) will vie for the job at the “hot corner”. Vega will be in the line up somewhere and will most likely play at second or third base. Zelenski joined the Softball tem last year after being a member of the Cougars’ volleyball and basketball programs. She has focused on softball this year and is one of the team’s most versatile athletes. She is a true utility player and can hold down a spot anywhere, but the pitching circle. Her late start during her freshman season provided a large enough sample to expect her to be an impact player this year. Zelenski batting .267 over 29 at bats, but was also second on the team with a .436 on-base percentage. Ruck says, “She has a great arm and can play anywhere.” The Cougars can also move Demi Danell (Hanford), who led the Cougars with a .475 on-base percentage in 2016, to third base when she is not in the pitching circle.
Freshman Taylor Jacobsen (Hanford HS) is locked in as the Cougars’ Shortstop. She teamed with her sister Mackenzie Jacobsen (Hanford HS) to win a Valley Championship at Hanford High and was named all-West Yosemite League First Team. Ruck says, “Taylor has great range at shortstop and soft hands.” Jacobsen is slated to bat in the heart of the Cougars’ line-up. Ruck says, “She has great bat control and lots of power.”
Freshman Sabrina Scott (Paso Robles HS) has established herself as a top-flight defender and begins the season as the Cougars’ leftfielder. Ruck says, “She is an aggressive fielder and fearless. She (has the tools) with good speed and a strong arm.” Sophomores Kassi Sanchez (Palmdale) and Madi Zelenski (Palmdale) also posses the range, arms and gloves to play leftifeld. Sanchez ended her freshman season as the Cougars’ starting Leftfielder. She also batted .149 over 47 at bats on the season.
Cal Poly transfer Dayna Manser (Fresno) is the Cougars’ best natural Centerfielder and should see plenty of time in the pasture. Ruck says, “She has a good arm and can play outfield too. She is good in center.” Sophomore Madi Zelenski (Palmdale), depending on the Cougars’ defensive needs, can handle centerfield and the Cougars can also move Kassi Sanchez (Palmdale) here, if needed.
The Cougars’ defense in rightfield will, most likely, be determined by their needs on offense. The Cougars plan to rotate Freshmen Kaitlin Doty (Templeton HS) and Taylor Rasmusson (Pine Grove) with Sophomore Mariah Solis (Arroyo Grande HS). Of course, ever-versatile sophomores Kassi Sanchez (Palmdale) and Madi Zelenski (Palmdale) can always fill in too.
Cuesta College Athletic Programs are funded through a combined effort of the College District, Associated Students of Cuesta College, and The Athletic Booster Club.