Western Nebraska Community College softball coach Katelyn Groves signed five players during the early signing period in November.
Inking letters of intent in a ceremony at WNCC were Isabelle Coffman and Ashley Quinn of Aurora, Colorado; Bailey Blanchard of Elizabeth, Colorado; and Lexi Butterfield of Lehi, Utah.
Also signing a letter was Chloe Cronquist of Blackfoot, Idaho.
Isabella Coffman played her softball at Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Colorado.
Coffman said she picked WNCC because of the culture and the community aspect of the college.
“I also thought that WNCC could get me the education I needed to be successful and of course I really wanted to play softball at the next level.”
Coffman is extremely thrilled to keep playing softball.
“I am beyond excited to play at the next level; it has been a dream of mine since I started playing,” she said. “I’m really excited to learn more about the game and become a consistent, more experienced player. I have put so much work into this game and I’m so glad I have received the opportunity to work even harder.”
Coffman has been playing softball since she was eight years old. She started as a catcher, but now is primarily a shortstop.
“I’ve been playing softball since I was eight and I have loved it ever since,” she said. “I have been playing travel ball almost every weekend in the summer for many years and played for Eaglecrest High School, a state contending team for the last four years.”
Coffman has played many positions during her time on the softball diamond.
“I have been playing shortstop for the past few years, but I also enjoy third and sometimes the outfield,” she said. “I wasn’t always a shortstop, I started out as a catcher, and well, you see how that went. It just wasn’t for me, so I decided to try short and I loved it.”
Her softball talents are because she works hard and wants to keep getting better. Her goal at WNCC is to push herself in all aspects on and off the field.
“Specifically, I want to work hard in the classroom to master the courses I take, meet new people to grow as a person, and I really want to work hard and push myself to be the best softball player I can be,” she said. “My main goal at WNCC is to be prepared for whatever it is I do next and enjoy my time here.”
Coffman also played basketball at Eaglecrest and she played because she was asked to and worked hard to get better.
“I played basketball at my high school, though I had never really played before,” she said. “The coach insisted that I try it and I improved a lot from where I started. I played jayvee and varsity in my basketball career throughout high school.”
After two years at WNCC, Coffman is hoping to find herself playing at a university.
“I hope to attend a large university, continue playing softball, and to keep progressing toward my future in law enforcement,” she said. “And, thank you coach for giving me an opportunity to play ball at the next level and for helping me find my new home here at WNCC.”
Bailey Blanchard comes to WNCC from Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, Colorado, where she was a four-year varsity starter. Blanchard is a middle infielder, but has played every position besides pitcher in her 10 years of playing softball.
Blanchard said she picked WNCC because of the close-net family atmosphere the team has. Plus, she played with current Cougars Jade Gomez and Mackenzie Bakel in the Colorado Next Level Softball organization.
“I chose WNCC because it’s in a small town with a tight-knit community and not too far from home,” she said. “The school itself is very nice and not overwhelmingly big and all the people I spoke with seemed very nice.”
Her goals at WNCC is simple, to get better and move on to four-year school.
“My goals at WNCC are to excel not only with softball but with academics and get a better idea of what I want to do with my future,” she said. “
Blanchard has been playing softball since the third grade. In high school, she has been all-conference three of her four years and she was a second team all-state this fall.
“I am excited to be playing softball at the collegiate level,” she said. “I’ve been working towards this for as long as I can remember.”
She, too, just like Coffman, played basketball but only up until high school but then picked just softball in high school.
“Softball is really what I loved and I decided to focus on that,” she said.
After WNCC, Blanchard has big goals.
“After WNCC I want to continue my academic career and possibly my softball career while I get my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “I would also like to thank Coach Groves for giving me this opportunity. I would also like to thank everyone involved with the Colorado Next Level Softball Organization for ensuring that I am ready to play ball at the collegiate level. Finally, I want to thank my family, especially my dad for making sure that I had everything I needed to succeed academically and on the field.”
Chloe Cronquist comes to the Cougars from Blackfoot, Idaho, and Blackfoot High School. Cronquist is the first softball player for the Cougars from the state of Idaho.
Cronquist picked WNCC because of Coach Groves and the school.
“I really liked Coach Groves, the school, and the area. It feels like home,” she said. “I am so excited [to play college softball]. It’s been my goal/dream to play college softball and it’s finally coming true.”
Cronquist is a utility player where she has played several positions, but since her sophomore year, she has been primarily a second baseman.
“My main position is second base but I can play anywhere the team needs me too,” she said. “It hasn’t always been my position. I was injured my sophomore year and when I came back from it, my coaches put me at second and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Cronquist has played softball since she was seven years old and been a starter on the varsity every year.
Cronquist has earned plenty of accolades for her softball. Her sophomore year she was nominated for All-Area Second Team infielder and her junior year she was nominated for High Country Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-Area Infielder.
She also played other sports at Blackfoot. Cronquist played volleyball her freshman and sophomore year and then ran cross country her junior year. She said cross country was quite the experience.
Her goal at WNCC is to get better and move on to a four-year school.
“My goal is to finish my softball career and education at a different school for two more years,” she said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to keep playing softball and go to college. I couldn’t have done it without all the support I have from my friends, family, coaches, and teammates.”
Butterfield comes to WNCC from the state of Utah, where she played at Lehi High School.
Butterfield picked WNCC because it was a good opportunity and the community reminded her of home.
“First off, I love softball and I wanted to continue at the next level,” Butterfield said. “The first time I came here, it reminded me of my hometown, and I love the coach. Also, I always wanted to go away from home but not too far from home. I can go home whenever I want. That is a plus.”
Getting to play softball collegiately has been something that Butterfield has dreamed of doing.
“It is a amazing [that I get to play at the college level],” she said. “It is a goal I wanted my whole live and now that it is here, I can’t explain it. It is amazing.”
Butterfield still has her senior season at Lehi High to compete since high school softball in Utah is run in the spring. Butterfield is a pitcher for Lehi and has improved every year as she gets ready for her senior season.
Last year as a junior, Butterfield went 11-8 from the circle with a 3.31 earned run average. She had 87 strikeouts with just 54 earned runs.
Butterfield has good offensive numbers since she started on varsity as a freshman. As a junior, she batted .365 with four doubles, a triple and six home runs. The six home runs is the most in her high school career. She also had 24 RBIs.
Butterfield knows about work and as a pitcher, she is excited to have the talent behind her.
“It is awesome [to come here with all this talent],” she said. “With the talent here, and being a pitcher, you know you have backup.”
Butterfield started playing softball at the age of seven at the competitive level. She also plays basketball at Lehi High.
Ashley Quinn is the second player from Aurora, Colorado, as she played for Cherokee High School where she was a varsity player her senior and junior season.
Quinn said picking WNCC was easy since she knew two of this year’s early signees already.
“When I came up on my first visit, I noticed how it really felt like home already and everyone was super welcoming. They welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “I loved the environment and I knew it was my place when I came here.”
A lot of the Cougar players come from Colorado and Utah, and Quinn said knowing players that played here or are coming in to play at WNCC is definitely a plus.
“I know Bailey and Bella and I just got to know Lexi more this weekend,” she said. “Getting the extra time to get to know them, meet them, and to be with them, it really made things a lot easier. Now I have that support and that backup if I ever need it.”
The biggest thing of signing early is pressure of what college you want. That was a big burden lifted off of Quinn’s shoulders.
“I felt like once I decided I was going here, it was weight lifted off my shoulders because I didn’t have to worry about filling out any other college applications,” she said. “I was just focused on going here and that is all I wanted is to go here. So, it was a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Quinn is a utility play where she can play all over. She really doesn’t care where she plays as long as she can help the team.
At Cherokee High in the fall, she batted .328 with 14 RBIs and three doubles. She also batted .300 her junior year on varsity.
Softball is the only sport she played in high school. While she tried others when she was younger, she grew to love softball more.
“I played sports when I was little, but I fell in love with softball at a very young age,” she said. “I never wanted to play another sport because this sport had my heart. I am very excited to be continuing it.”