Veteran Lions eye state again
Forgive Lansing High softball coach Terry Cornett if he seems just a little bit giddy when he talks about his expectations for this year's team.
It'd be tough for any coach not to be excited about having nine players back from a team that placed third a state last year. After all, they all played a role in last year's 19-7 season and 6-2 mark in Kaw Valley League play. Eight of them were everyday starters.
"I've got five seniors, and those girls have played a lot of innings," Cornett said. "And I've got four super juniors. I hate to be so optimistic, but we've got that core."
That core includes both starting pitchers who were invaluable to the Lions' success in numerous close games. Senior Jessica Kane posted an 11-3 record last year as the squad's ace, and junior pitcher Dana Sanders was a stellar 8-4.
Most of the infield remains intact, too. Seniors Emma Hoagland (first base), Carolyn McKune (second base) and Maggie Aus (third base) join junior catcher Nichole Twitchell for their second year together in the infield. Juniors Nicole Holland and Jessica Stark return to their starting roles in the outfield and will be joined by senior Michelle Mitchell.
"We got back the whole core of our team back," Kane said. "We lost our shortstop but we've got some girls who are going to step up and fill the spots."
Freshman Amanda Darrow is expected to plug the hole at shortstop, while freshmen Morgan Chiles and Jasmine Holland could fill a variety of roles in the field and as pinch hitters and runners.
"I've got three freshmen that are going to make a big difference," Cornett said.
Defense and pitching will be Lansing's strengths, but hitting could be a problem. The Lions weren't known for a team with lots of pop in its bats in 2004, but Cornett said his players had worked hard in the summer to improve their hitting.
"If we can get the bats to start coming alive early then we could be real tough," he said. "The pitching is going to be there and I think we have the defense, but I hope the bats come along. What concerns me is bunting. We've got to do a better job of bunting."
The won numerous one-run games last year, and in three games at state last year they scored a total of three runs.
"We had a lot of one-run wins or won in the seventh inning," Kane said. "If we can get four or five runs in the first five innings it'll make things a lot easier."
Kane said the Lions are aware that they won't have any easy games this season. She said they expect to get every opponent's best effort because the Lions have an X on their backs.
"Everybody's going to be out to get us this year because they know we did so well last year," she said. "But I think once we get a few wins under our belt then we'll really start to know how good we'll be this year."
Lansing will have it's first chance for a win at 4 p.m. Tuesday when it travels to Atchison for its season-opener. The Lions then will play their home-opener at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against Mill Valley.