The season of the sequel?
You can't see the big target on the backs of the Basehor-Linwood softball players, but it's there. After going to state last year, everybody will be gunning for the Lady 'Cats this season and they'll have to be able to take every team's best shot.
BLHS coach Susan Mayberry knows this. She also knows that, after going to state with a young team last year, expectations will be high this season. But the pressure doesn't bother her.
"I think in our softball program our expectations are always high," Mayberry said. "We've already faced some adversity with some injuries, academic issues and some illnesses, but I think if we can get healthy and back on track we're going to be competitive."
Mayberry has plenty of reasons for optimism. She's got a load of returning players who know what it's like to go to state and are hungry to get back. Chief among them is Kristal Holland. Holland is the unquestioned ace of the Lady 'Cats' pitching staff, an accomplished senior who's already committed to play college softball at Central Missouri State.
Holland was voted to the all-league first team last season after she pitched every game for the Lady Bobcats and finished 15-7. She struck out 198 batters, had a .58 ERA and also helped out by hitting .343 with 15 RBI. Holland will be looking to end her remarkable career with a trip to state and she has the teammates to help her get the job done.
The headliners in the supporting cast are second baseman Chelsea Patton and outfielder Erin Shore. Patton was first team all-league last year as a freshman, hitting .277 with three homers, 13 RBI and 21 runs scored. Shore was second team all-league as a sophomore, hitting .368 with 13 RBI and 14 runs scored. She was also the only BLHS regular to go the entire season without an error in the field.
But the Lady 'Cats are far more than a three-player show. With the exception of one player who transferred out of the district, the team returns all its players. It's a talented, confident bunch capable of picking each other up when one or two players are in a slump.
"Everybody's got a role on our team and it's bringing everything you have every day," Mayberry said. "As a head coach I'm fortunate to have the kids that we have. Everybody brings something different."
With all the talent on the field, one would think there might be some jealousy or division within the BLHS roster, but that doesn't seem to be the case. This squad seems to have great chemistry. Whether tripping one other in front of a crowd of people at Meet the Bobcats, or loudly competing to call "shotgun" after practice, the Lady Bobcats seem to be having a lot of fun and a lot of laughs already.
"Chemistry is huge in our program," Mayberry said. "Obviously you want the talent, but when you have a group of players who can jell and cover each other's backs and put expectations on each other, it's huge."
The Lady 'Cats seem to have that again this year and that may be why they don't appear too nervous about the targets other teams are putting on them. They know their teammates are watching their backs.
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