(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS -- Announcing her recruiting class for the 2021-22 academic year, Montana State University Billings softball head coach Lisa McKinney introduced six new faces who will join the Yellowjackets next year.
Lauren Blaschak | Position: Shortstop | Hometown: Billings, Montana | Previous School: Billings West High School
A hometown signing for the ‘Jackets, Blaschak was a two-year letterwinner on the diamond at Billings West High School. She was a two-year starter playing both shortstop and outfield under head coach Preston Sanders. In 2018 she was a gold glove winner in the outfield, and in 2019 she was named offensive player of the year. Blaschak also participated in cross country for one season at West High.
Coach McKinney on Blaschak: “Lauren is local talent that speaks with her abilities. She can cover a wide range at short and deliver a strong throw across the diamond. At the plate, she has power potential but will also increase the speed of our lineup overall.”
Blaschak on choosing MSUB: “Playing collegiate softball has always been a huge goal of mine, so deciding upon MSUB as my next step in life was not a difficult decision. All the girls were so nice to me on my visit and I fell in love with the atmosphere of the campus. I am excited to be able to stay close to my friends and family while playing the sport I love. MSUB is a great academic school that will help my future career in the health field. I am looking forward to making new memories and joining the Yellowjacket softball family.”
Preslee Christensen | Position: Right-Handed Pitcher/First Baseman | Hometown: Heber City, Utah | Previous School: South Summit High School
Christensen was a second-team all-region selection playing primarily as an outfielder during her sophomore season in 2019. After a 6-0 start to her junior year in the spring of 2020, the campaign was brought to an end by the coronavirus pandemic.
Christensen accumulated a .571 batting average with three home runs and 17 RBIs, while logging a 0.82 ERA and 22 strikeouts in the shortened 2020 season. In addition to her three letters won in softball, she played one season as a forward on the basketball team.
Christensen on choosing MSUB: “I was originally interested in MSUB because of its location. Montana is so beautiful and I wanted to stay in the Western States. When I met the coaches, I knew that this was a place that I could fit in and have an awesome experience. When I finally got to visit the campus, I couldn't find anything I didn't love about it. The location is amazing, the campus is beautiful, and I was really impressed with the softball program.”
Coach McKinney on Christensen: “Preslee is a pitcher that uses her size along with composure, power, and grit to excel on the mound. She has the ability to contribute both offensively and defensively. We are excited to watch her grow and learn from the experience of our current staff.”
Jazlyn Kalehuawehe | Position: First Base/Third Base | Hometown: Folsom, California | Previous School: Folsom High School
A talented corner infielder, Kalehuawehe was a three-year letterwinner at Folsom High School playing both first base and third base. A three-year starter, Kalehuawehe was a first-team all-league selection as a sophomore during the spring of 2019. She was the MVP of the Stephanie LeDoux tournament, and earned her team’s most improved award in her second full season as well. Aside from her high school accolades, Kalehuawehe helped her 16U team win the Colorado Fireworks Power Pool championship.
Coach McKinney on Kalehuawehe: “I have had the pleasure of watching Jazzy grow into the player she has become over the years. We are excited she chose to continue her journey in the Yellowjacket program. Jazzy is a strong corner with a big bat, who brings a positive and energetic demeanor on and off the field.”
Kalehuawehe on choosing MSUB: “I chose MSUB to continue my athletic and academic career, because it felt like home. Once I stepped on campus I instantly fell in love. I connected with the coaching staff really well and my future teammates were very welcoming. I am so excited to be a Yellowjacket.”
Shelby Martin | Position: Right-Handed Pitcher | Hometown: Helena, Montana | Previous Schools: Capital High School/Dawson Community College
The ace of Dawson Community College’s staff in each of the last two seasons, Martin brings a reliable right arm to the Yellowjacket pitching rotation. In her first full season with the Bucs in 2019, Martin led the team with 140 strikeouts and 125 2/3 innings pitched, while starting 23 games in the circle. She had a 17-2 record with a 2.56 earned run average, and logged 21 complete games.
Martin was named the MonDak Region MVP, was a first-team all-region selection, and earned academic honors after her freshman year. She appeared on her way to a repeat performance before the 2020 season was cut short, as she once again led the team with 23 2/3 innings pitched while striking out 16 batters in her first three starts.
Martin’s collegiate success was preceded by a standout prep career at Capital High School, where she was a two-time Montana Gatorade Player of the Year and a four-time first-team all-state selection. She also earned first-team all-conference in each of her four seasons as a starter, while playing both first base and pitching. Martin’s high school records include 373 strikeouts, 17 strikeouts in one game, and a 1.74 ERA. She participated in basketball for three seasons as well.
Coach McKinney on Martin: “Shelby has had a stellar career at Dawson. She brings power, experience, and consistency to our pitching staff. In addition to being a power pitcher she offers more power potential in our lineup. We are excited to keep a Montana athlete local.”
Martin on choosing MSUB: “I am very excited for the opportunity to move on and play softball after already being at Dawson. It is so awesome that I am getting the opportunity to continue to play softball in Montana, and being from here it means everything that I am able to play softball here. I love the school, the coaches, the program, and it is also really cool that I know some of the girls already going into the program. My really good friend here at Dawson is also coming to MSUB.”
Maycen O’Neal | Position: Catcher | Hometown: Brigham City, Utah | Previous Schools: Box Elder High School/Dawson Community College
Martin’s batterymate is joining her on the Yellowjackets’ roster, as O’Neal has been right by the standout pitcher’s side each of the last two seasons at Dawson. As a freshman in 2019, O’Neal hit .442 with four home runs and 33 RBIs, while seeing action in 37 games. She posted an OPS of 1.187, while striking out just eight times in 95 at-bats.
Defensively, O’Neal committed just one error in 177 total chances, for an outstanding .994 fielding percentage. She caught 11 runners stealing as well. O’Neal played just four games in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic ended the season.
Prior to her collegiate career, O’Neal was a three-year letterwinner in softball at Box Elder High School in Utah. Her senior year she helped lead her team to the Class 5A state title. O’Neal was also the setter on her volleyball team for one season.
Coach McKinney on O’Neal: “Maycen is a solid catcher. Her experience at Dawson will help the program flourish with leadership behind the plate. Not only does she bring a new dynamic behind the plate but she will also bring power to the plate as a hitter.”
O’Neal on choosing MSUB: “I chose to come here to play softball and get an education because I love the coaches and the players I have met so far.”
Alexis Tovar | Position: Outfield/First Base | Hometown: Nampa, Idaho | Previous School: Nampa High School
Tovar competed in softball for three seasons at Nampa High School, playing in the outfield, at first base, and pitching. She was a first-team all-league selection during her sophomore season in 2019, and also earned her team’s offensive player of the year award. In her first season in 2018, Tovar was the team’s defensive player of the year and was an honorable mention all-conference selection.
In addition to her success on the field, Tovar earned the conference’s academic award in each season, maintaining a 3.75 grade point average. She also played as a right-side hitter on Nampa’s volleyball team for four seasons.
Coach McKinney on Tovar: “Alexis is a fantastic utility player, being able to cover ground in the outfield and dig balls at first base. Being a true lefty, she brings a new perspective to our lineup. Her passion and upbeat personality will fit in well with the program’s culture.”
Tovar on choosing MSUB: “I chose MSUB because I love Coach McKinney’s and Coach (Taylor) Olsen’s work ethic, what they teach, and how they do things at MSUB. I believe they are a great fit for me. Also, MSUB offers what I want to study so that was a plus. As well as the coaches and academics at MSUB, it has a really pretty campus and Billings is a beautiful area.”