By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Talk to softball coaches around the North Bay about the best player in the area, and you hear a lot about Petaluma High School senior Joelle Krist. You also hear a lot of descriptions: hard worker, talented, leader. And then these: Feared, scary, competitor, intimidating — all pointing to a summary statement: “An obvious choice.”
Krist hit a phenomenal .529, knocked in a mind-boggling 46 runs and banged six home runs. In each of those categories she led the Sonoma County League-champion Trojans.
For these stats and for leading Petaluma to the SCL championship and to the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section Division II playoffs, Krist is our All-Empire Large School Softball Player of the Year.
“I wish I could coach her for the next 20 years,” said Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow.
No offense, Joelle, but other coaches are happy to see you move on. And move on she will. Krist has signed on to play softball for the University of Arizona Wildcats next year.
For as much as he respects her game, Ukiah head coach Gary Venturi won’t mind not seeing Krist step into the batter’s box against him next year.
Venturi’s Wildcats had an outstanding run, winning the North Bay League for the first time in 18 years, and yet were on the losing end of two outings against Krist and the Trojans this season. At one point, Venturi had seen enough of Krist and decided to pitch around her. But the pitcher left the ball just a little too close to the plate.
“Just with her upper body, she just reached out and ‘Boom!’ it was gone,” Venturi said. “Not too many girls can do that.”
But even that wasn’t what made Venturi’s jaw truly drop. It was when the most feared hitter in the North Bay had runners on, yet squared up to bunt. Krist was more concerned with advancing the runners than pumping up her power stats.
“Most girls that have a Division I scholarship . . . they would never even think of doing that,” Venturi said. “It made me proud she’s in our league, that she would do something like that when she’s a power hitter.
“She was just trying to get on base,” he said.
Jastrow said Krist is a workhorse who stays after practice to hone her game.
“She took her craft very serious,” he said. “As a freshman she hit high .300s or low .400s but from her sophomore year on, she’s batting over .500 every single year.”
“The way she plays, the way she works in practice — she works hard,” he said.
She’s also a leader, Jastrow said. Both by example and a word to a teammate here and there, Krist and her fellow captains helped the Trojans move forward all year long.
“The three captains, they were wonderful,” Jastrow said of Krist and fellow seniors Cassie Baddeley and Brie Gerhardt. “I have never had leaders like that.”
Much of that was built not just in high school, but in youth teams over the years.
“A lot of the seniors, I have been playing with since I was seven or eight,” Krist said. “I didn’t think I would get emotional after the (final) game. But it’s such a good group. We got along really well; having played together that long, it’s kind of surprising but it’s true.”
All good things must come to an end. Opposing coaches who had to face Krist the past four years are likely happy this ship is sailing.
You can reach Staff Columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.