Lady Jets soaring in summer’s early going
In the summer of 1998, seven Basehor girls got together a softball team to play at the newly constructed Field of Dreams sports complex.
Six years later, the same seven girls are having fun and mowing through their opposition as members of the Lady Jets.
The team, which competes in the Kaw Valley Summer League against teams from Tonganoxie, Lansing and Bonner Springs, remained undefeated after defeating a Lansing team 17-5 in five innings Monday at the Field of Dreams softball complex. However, head coach Scott Kraemer said the results are secondary in his eyes.
"The winning is nice but teaching them some skills whether it's on the field or off the field is what's important," he said. "We have rules -- you hustle on and off the field, you act like a ball player, there is no taunting, there is no disrespect to the officials ... Our girls hold their heads up high because they have good attitudes. Sportsmanship is really what it's all about."
The undefeated status of the team is something that sophomore Shaw Sawalich said is there but the team doesn't really think about.
"We go into every game thinking this team could beat us and we need to take it seriously," she said. "We just got back from a competitive tournament and we had a really close game with a team because our heads might have been a little out of it."
Assistant coach Jerry Clark said other teams and their coaches have noticed the Jets' attention toward being model citizens both on and off the field.
"I think we get a lot of respect from the other teams and the other coaches more so than others because I hear it," he said. "We hear it from the guys in Lansing, the guys in Tongie. The competitive tournament we just played, even though we got hammered, the other coaches said 'You guys have got a great team.' They keep their chin up and their head in the game and they give it their all."
The lessons and skills taught have paid off in a love for the game, Sawalich said. All the members of the team view the game differently than when they started.
"Now we're more passionate about the game," she said. "We're going into every game trying to win it and this season I think we've definitely come together as a team."
Kraemer said the biggest change he has noticed with the team is how much the team has begun to help each other on the team.
"I think for the first time we truly are a team because we're picking up the slack when one person isn't doing well -- they're trying to help them and trying to pump them up," he said. "They like each other and if they have any problems, they don't show them to us."
When the majority of the girls moved up to play at the high school level with Basehor-Linwood head softball coach Susan Mayberry last year, Kraemer said he noticed a definite change in the play of the team.
"Probably the best thing for some of these girls is when they've moved on to the high school team, they've had a good foundation to grow on," he said. "Then Coach Mayberry at the high school has fine-tuned them to where I've picked up pretty much a high school team."
Some of the girls have also moved on to play on competitive teams. Sophomore Lindsay Beal, who had eight strikeouts in the Jets' win Monday, said despite the change in competition, she doesn't see any difference.
"I approach pitching for the Jets the same way I do when I pitch for my competitive team," she said. "The results are usually different because the competitive team can hit better though."
The season at the high school level has had an immediate impact on many of the players, Sawalich said.
"(Playing high school softball) has helped us a lot," she said. "We've learned a lot from the high school team that we've been able to use when we come out here and play."
While Kraemer and Clark said this will be their last summer coaching the team, Clark said they hope the focus of the team will always remain playing the game the right way.
"We've always made it learning the fundamentals and having fun," he said. If you're not having fun, we're doing something wrong as the coaches. The girls have learned to do that and the losses are going to come, but they keep their chins up and their heads high when they have a loss and we play the next game."
Each week for the rest of the summer The Sentinel sports staff will try to cover a different summer league team, while updating the rest of the squads.