Three Mustangs move on

Bakker, Brooker, Matthis to play college softball


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From left, recent Chugiak High graduates Mollie Matthis, Taylor Bakker and Kacey Brooker will all be playing softball at the collegiate level. Matthis and Brooker will play at Brevard College in North Carolina, and Bakker is playing for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

MIKE NESPER

Throughout the 2012 softball season, Chugiak Mustangs head coach Jim Huber touted the strength of his senior class.

Turns out he was right.

Three recent Chugiak High graduates, Kacey Brooker, Mollie Matthis and Taylor Bakker, are all playing collegiate softball in the fall.

Brooker and Matthis recently signed to play for Brevard (N.C.) College, an NCAA Division II program, and Bakker is heading to Kansas to play for Hutchinson Community College.

Huber — who’s coached them since they were Knik Little Leaguers — couldn’t be happier.

“I’ve watched them grow up and get better and better as ball players and grow up to be nice young ladies,” he said. “I think all of them have the work ethic and drive to succeed at the next level.”

Brooker, who has family in North Carolina, knows college softball will be nothing like high school.

“I’ve been with my high school coach since Little League. I can always complain about conditioning, but that’s not how it’s gonna be in college,” she said.

Brooker was a three-year varsity player and would have played her freshman year but was injured early in the season, Huber said. One of Brooker’s best attributes is her hitting ability, he said.

“She can just flat out hit the ball,” Huber said. “She was always one of the top offensive players.”

Brooker also provided a spark to Chugiak, Huber said.

“She’s got just a tremendous energy about her,” he said. “She always had a good attitude and she worked hard.”

Friends since elementary school, Brooker and Matthis are happy they’ll be teammates for another four years.

“It’s gonna be really nice knowing somebody,” Matthis said.

Playing collegiate softball has been one of Matthis’ goals for a long time.

“I’ve been wanting to play college softball since I started playing softball,” she said.

The intellectual aspect of the game appeals most to Matthis, she said.

“It’s kind of the mental part that I like the most,” she said. “It really does make you think a lot.”

Matthis said she’s ready for the challenge of playing at the next level.

“Everyone will be faster and stronger,” she said.

But with her speed and athleticism, Matthis will be just fine, Huber said.

“Mollie is just an absolutely incredible athlete all the way around,” he said.

The long distance from home will be hard, Matthis said, but she’s eager to start the next chapter in her life.

“I’m definitely gonna miss my friends and family, but it’s gonna be exciting,” she said. “I’m so looking forward to it.”

Bakker said after Hutchinson — a two-year program — and she plans to transfer to a four-year school.

Like her former teammates, Bakker can’t wait to start playing college ball.

“I’ve got my countdown on my phone that alerts me how many days until I leave,” she said. “I’m ready for a challenge.”

Bakker said she plans to play the sport she’s loved since childhood as long as she can.

“I can’t see life without softball right now,” she said.

Like she has for three seasons, Bakker will play catcher at Hutchinson. Bakker said she enjoys catching and the added responsibility it brings of needing to know where every play is going.

“It’s a bigger role to take on,” she said.

But it’s one no one else is better suited for, Huber said.

“They’re not going to get a better athlete behind the plate,” he said.

Like Matthis, Bakker is a fast, athletic ballplayer, Huber said.

“Taylor is an incredibly gifted athlete who is highly competitive,” he said. “I really think her future is bright.”

Huber said he wishes Matthis, Brooker and Bakker the best, but he’d love to see them in a Mustangs uniform for one more year.

“I’m real proud of them and happy for them,” he said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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