Elite Raiders Eye Return

Elite Raiders Eye Return

Three Rivers coach Jeff Null wants Three Rivers to be known as a top-10 program.

At least for now, it is.

The Raiders reached the final eight at the NJCAA National Tournament, and with their top two pitchers coming back next season, plus a talented freshman class, their cupboard is already well-stocked for next year.

While third-year sophomores Zoe Bisby and Jenny Morey are the only players who have exhausted their eligibility, Three Rivers started two first-year players in its final game of the season against Seminole State, and many of those college graduates will be moving on.


Kindi Puckett said she would come back for a third season as Three Rivers’ No. 1 pitcher, and No. 2 pitcher Makale Floyd will return for her sophomore season.

“I think they’ll have a good program,” Bisby said. “I think Makale (Floyd) will definitely get there. She’s been here now. She understands what she has to do to get here. And Kindi, she’s a baller. She’ll keep doing it, keep working hard.”

Puckett finished with a 1.83 ERA and 8.32 strikeouts per seven innings and a 23-2 record with 14 complete games and 149 innings pitched.

Coupled with last year’s abbreviated season of 13 games, Puckett is 18 wins, and 217 innings pitched away from breaking Heather Robey’s career records, set in 2004-05. Puckett is already seventh all-time in career strikeouts and needs another 166 strikeouts to reach second, but 316 to break Robey’s record of 529.

Puckett’s 23 wins this season tied her with Cendyl Carter for seventh all-time in a single season. She was also ninth in strikeouts (177).

Floyd transformed from a struggling bullpen pitcher at the beginning of the season to a dominant No. 2 that held Crowder and Indian Hills to one run each to win the region and district championships.

“I feel great (about Makale and I coming back),” Puckett said. “She came in at the beginning of the year, struggling. I can’t believe how far she’s come. I’m so proud of her.”

Floyd struggled with her command early and allowed 10 runs in her first 10 1/3 innings, including two starts where she pitched 4 1/3 total innings.

Floyd refined her mechanics, worked in her spare time and won the No. 2 spot in early April.

On March 28, she allowed six hits and four runs in 2 1/3 innings to Crowder. Two weeks later, she pitched 5 2/3 innings with four hits and two runs against Crowder.

Three weeks later, in the region championship, she held Crowder to six hits and one run with four strikeouts in a complete-game win.

She put up similar numbers in the district championship against Indian Hills.

A ground ball pitcher who did not have double- digit strikeouts in any game this season, Floyd allowed 13 runs in five innings as the hard, dry infields didn’t do her any favors.

She finished the season with a 10-3 record, a 2.97 ERA and 7.43 strikeouts per seven innings. She allowed five home runs in 75 1/3 innings.

“We just need to keep the same approach, keep fighting, keep having heart,” Puckett said.

Among the true freshman, Brianna Everett, Jaime Lee and Kyla Puckett are already in the Three Rivers record books.

Everett is third in a single season with 16 home runs, behind teammate Lauren Joyner (20) and Allison Pingel (21). Puckett isn’t far off with 14 home runs, and Lee has 13.

Pingel also holds the career record of 28, set in 2019.

Everett’s also second in a single season with 74 RBIs, 10 behind Pingel, and needs 51 to break Pingel’s career record.

Puckett was second all- time with an .857 slugging percentage, Everett was fifth (.775), and Lee was seventh (.737).

Other first-year players off the bench played pivotal roles during the season. Naomi Crowley scored 13 runs and stole six bases as a pinch-runner. Backup catcher and designated hitter Emma Keen had 10 RBIs in nine at-bats.

Pitchers Cayton Sloan, Makayla Bryant and Makenna Moore had a combined 11-1 record.

Kenlee McAuliffe had a .611 batting average, .682 on-base percentage and .944 slugging percentage through 12 games but was shut down after March 22.


Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic