With coach Christy Weve and coach Todd Olmstead at the helm of the Derby softball and baseball programs, respectively, the future is clearly in good hands.
Throw in the success of both teams – along with the junior varsity teams – and more winning appears to be on the horizon.
Baseball finished third in the Class 6A state tournament and was 20-5 on the season. The Panthers utilized an incredibly strong, experienced and deep senior class.
For most programs, losing such a wealth of skill and talent would decimate a program for several years.
But not the Panthers. Talent was oozing from the baseball program, and the other levels flourished as well.
“I believe we are successful at the JV level because we have kids that want to compete and get better every single pitch. This was a fun group to coach,” coach Kevin Davis said.
For Derby baseball, an undefeated JV record was added to the list of accomplishments in 2021 for the team.
In a case of the rich getting richer, the Panthers had pitcher after pitcher to count on, including the emergence of Clayton Knoblock on the mound. The efficiency on the mound for the JV team as well as the varsity was a high point of the season for the program as a whole.
As for a few other standouts – Kade Sheldon, Caden Rojas and Cole Minton – they all took care of their job at the plate, whether that was getting hits or scoring runs. All three thrived throughout the year.
The always successful softball program grew this season as well.
Despite not making it to state and snapping the long-standing streak, the Panthers had another outstanding season.
The JV team finished 17-3 on the year and continued to improve exponentially throughout the season.
“The JV program is extremely important to the Derby softball program,” coach Angela Cox said. “The main goal for the JV team is to develop the future varsity-level players. We not only want to develop and advance their game skills, we also want the girls to experience the commitment and the discipline that the Derby softball program expects of them.”
That’s exactly what the coaching staff got from its JV program, keeping the Panthers on course for another strong season in 2022.
“We were extremely impressed with both the JV and varsity teams this season. They were very focused and goal-driven,” Cox said. “The Derby softball program continues to be loaded with girls who work hard every day, have great attitudes and are very coachable.
“They are always looking for what they can do next to improve their skill level. We feel strongly that with this talent and their dedication, our program will continue to be very successful,” she said.
Some standouts for the softball team included Brooke Rice, Avery Kelly and Kyler Demel.
The three were important factors in winning 17 of 20 games.
Rice was the first baseman who managed to stay “one step ahead,” according to Cox. Rice was highly effective at the plate – she had power, consistency and was dangerous when it came to laying down a bunt.
Kelly was a classic jack-of-all-trades type of player. She used her versatility to showcase her skill at second base, shortstop and catcher.
Demel played both JV and varsity for the Panthers. Not only did she have a knack for getting on base and was a strong hitter, but she had an infectious energy and attitude that carried over to her game as well.