Outlaws ready for big finish
This is it: the last hurrah for the Lansing Outlaws softball team before it rides off into the sunset.
At 9:30 a.m. today the Outlaws will wrap up pool play at the American Fastpitch Association Class B National Tournament in Lawrence. Double-elimination bracket play will begin tonight and run through Sunday.
Once the tournament is ends, so will the seven-year run for the Outlaws..
"This is the last tournament," Outlaws coach Russ Stark said. "Not that they have to win it, but I think they'd like to go out in style and play well."
The Outlaws (17-14-2) have played very well during the last two weeks heading into their first two pool play games Wednesday. They placed fifth at the AFA State Tournament two weeks ago and then made a strong run at the USSSA State Tourney before being eliminated in extra innings.
During that span, Jessica Hauver has hit .500 at the plate and infielders Carolyn McKune (second base), Dana Sanders (shortstop) and Maggie Aus (third base) have been nearly flawless. In addition, pitchers Jessica Kane, Erika Rios and Sanders all have consistently been effective. Stark said those strengths should help the Outlaws.
"We've played some pretty high-caliber teams and we've been playing everybody close," Stark said. "It's just a matter of putting it all together. The key thing is staying out of the loser's bracket in the first couple rounds. With that many teams, once you get in the loser's bracket, you're going to be playing a lot of games."
Today's pool play game caught the Outlaws' eye the moment the pairings were announced. They'll be playing the Manitoba Magic from Canada.
"That's what they're real excited about," Stark said of the opportunity to play international competition.
Stark said the Outlaws have been playing their best softball of the summer during the past two weeks. He said he hopes that will continue throughout the weekend and prolong the team's final tournament.
"I think it's in the back of everybody's minds," Stark said. "I think they want to make this go on as long as it can. They don't want to go five-and-out. We're not really talking about it, but I think everybody thinks about it."