CHAMPAIGN — Karley Yergler starred in softball at Mahomet-Seymour High School, setting a string of pitching and hitting records while earning News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year honors last spring.
So how has move to the next level gone for Yergler? Aces. As in her role with her new team.
Yergler is 22-7 this season for fourth-ranked Parkland College with a tiny 1.48 earned run average and eight shutouts.
Though not her focus, Yergler is striking out everybody. Actually, 254 in 160 1/3 innings. That’s 1.6 per inning. She is the Spencer Strider of junior college softball, averaging 11 Ks per game.
Yergler is second in strikeouts nationally behind only Izabella Regner of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College, who has 257.
Yergler has a chance to add to her total this weekend.
She will start the opening game of the Central A District tournament Saturday against Spoon River. First pitch is set for 10 a.m. at Parkland’s field in Champaign. Take first in the four-team tournament and the 46-10 Cobras will advance to the NJCAA Division II College World Series, which starts May 23 in Spartanburg, S.C.
Parkland enters the weekend on a four-game winning streak and has taken 12 of its last 13.
The Cobras closed the regular season with a doubleheader sweep against Spoon River and are 31-5 all time against the Snappers. This current Parkland team is continuing the program’s strong softball tradition and the increased expectations each season.
Yergler is a big reason why.
“Ever since we started practice at the beginning of the year, we were like ‘Oh, yeah, we’re going to nationals,’” Yergler said. “We have a great team. We have a great lineup. I’m super excited to see what we can do with it.”
The team wouldn’t be in this position without its rookie pitcher, though.
“She’s been a huge part of our success this year,” Parkland co-coach Kristi Paulson said.
No need for Yergler to get to know her new coaches at Parkland. She played for Cobras co-coaches Kristi and Dan Paulson on their club team, Premier Fastpitch.
“It definitely still has been a change,” Yergler said. “I would go from just seeing them in the summer and a few weekends during the year to seeing them every single day now. It’s really nice to already have that relationship with my coaches, especially pitch calling-wise.”
The Paulsons were careful not to push Yergler toward Parkland. But they let her know the door was open.
“We’ve always tried to keep Parkland and our travel organization separate,” Kristi Paulson said.
Of course, they are happy to have her on the team.
“She’s a competitor,” Kristi Paulson said. “She’s got a great defense and team behind her supporting her. She’s a hard worker and will always do what is best for the team.”
What are Yergler’s strengths?
“She’s got good velocity, but her best pitching attribute is her movement,” Kristi Paulson said. “She’s got really good movement and command in the circle. She stays calm. Typically under pressure situations, she gets tougher too.”
As a pitcher, Yergler’s role is similar to what it was with the Bulldogs.
But the hitting side is different. She remains effective, currently second on the team with five home runs.
She isn’t on the field much when she isn’t pitching. Instead, she works as the designated hitter.
Weight training in college is a change, too. She has gotten stronger, which helps her drive the ball over the taller fence at a bigger park.
“The coaches are so determined to get us the best we could possibly be,” Yergler said. “I knew we would be a talented team based on my coaches’ determinations, as well.”
In high school, Yergler pitched basically all the time. At Parkland, she is one four who have started this season, all of whom are freshmen.
“I don’t have to pitch every game, which is nice,” Yergler said.
“She has handled the pressure very well,” Kristi Paulson said.
Yergler has enjoyed time with her new teammates. She knew some of the players after going against them in high school and on club teams. But now they are on the same side.
“We’re all so close. We all get along so well. We are just one big family,” she said. “With the amount of time we spend with each other, it’s crazy how we still get along so well.”
Parkland has been a great fit for Yergler’s family. Her mom, Becky, is at every game and dad Paul attends as often as possible. Sisters Kasey and Kourteney, nieces, grandma and friends have been to games, too.
“That makes me really happy,” Yergler said.
Yergler is done with her freshman year classes. She has finals left.
The first year in college has gone well for her.
“I’ve kept my grades up and I’ve really enjoyed the classes I’m taking,” she said. “Yeah, I’m having a good time with it.”
She is studying science.
“I know I want to do some sort of medical profession,” Yergler said. “I just don’t know what yet.”
What’s next in her softball career?
Yergler plans to stay at Parkland for her sophomore season and then look to transfer to a four-year school.
“I want to stay in Illinois and I want to play Division I,” Yergler said.
Hey, there is one of those in Champaign-Urbana and others nearby in Normal and Charleston.
Yergler was recruited by Eastern Illinois and Illinois State while in high school.
“She will definitely be a Division I pitcher, if that’s what she chooses to do,” Kristi Paulson said. “I think she’ll have a lot of opportunities at that level.
“I would say any coach would be lucky to have Karley on their pitching staff. She’s got a high ceiling.”