Lions ‘excited’ to play at state softball tourney
Morgan Chiles always dreamed of playing in the state softball tournament.
The Lansing High sophomore will get her chance at 5 p.m. Friday in Topeka when LHS opens Class 5A state tournament action against St. Thomas Aquinas at Hummer Sports Park.
"I'm pretty excited because I don't know when I'll ever be able to go back," Chiles said. "If this is my only time, I've got to do the best I possibly can."
While Chiles is gearing up for her first trip to state, senior catcher Nichole Twitchel is preparing for trip No. 2. Twitchel was the starting catcher on the 2004 team that placed third at state in Class 4A.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I think this time we're going to take it a little bit more seriously. The first time we were just like 'Wow!' Getting there was good enough."
Twitchel said expectations are higher this year for two reasons: experience and chemistry. She and fellow seniors Kasey Denney, Nicole Holland, Dana Sanders and Jessica Stark all played on the 2004 squad. Meanwhile, the Lions' younger everyday players - Chiles, sophomores Amanda Darrow, Sara Logan, Jasmine Holland and freshman Brittney Lang - all have played a significant amount of softball. Chiles, Darrow and Lang play year-round.
"I think we're just closer," Twitchel said of the bond between upperclassmen and underclassmen. "I've played with Morgan and Amanda for a while, more than with the older girls last time."
LHS coach Terry Cornett said he was proud of the way his squad played in building a 16-6 record this season, and he said his players were focused and ready to play at state.
"They're pretty relaxed," he said. "That's the way you like to see it. There's no sense in putting any pressure on them. They know what they've got to do."
Chiles said the seniors were doing a good job getting the underclassmen ready for state.
"They're really helping us prepare and keeping us calm," she said. She said players were going to write supportive notes to each other to help get psyched up to play.
Chiles said she was excited about the opportunity to take on the best teams in the state.
"I'm pretty excited because I don't know when I'll ever be able to go back," she said. "If this is my only time, then I've got to do the best I possibly can."
Lansing will need to be at its best to knock off Aquinas. The top-seed Saints (21-1) will send junior left-handed pitcher Eranne Daugharty to the mound. She has been their ace all season.
"I've played against her during the summer," Twitchel said. "She might be good in league, but it's nothing we can't handle."
To prepare for a lefty, former LHS pitcher Racheal Bowen was slated to throw at practice Wednesday. Bowen plays softball at Missouri Southern State University.
Cornett said hitting would be the Lions' key to winning Friday. He said Lang and Sanders have been reliable all year on the mound and the defense has provided consistent support. It's the bats that remain the question mark.
"My concern is all year we've battled our hitting," he said. "We've won how many games with two and three and four runs. Offense has not been our forte."
If Lansing knocks off Aquinas, then LHS would advance to play the winner of Blue Valley West (19-3) and Bishop Carroll (19-3) at 10 a.m. Saturday in the state semifinals. If LHS loses to STA, then the season is over.
"I want to at least win that first game," Chiles said. "The first game's a big one. Plus, it's knocking Aquinas out. You're guaranteed at least two games after that."