Steve Broughton, the late Truman High School Hall of Fame softball and basketball coach, once told a story about the arrival of Paige Parker, a sensational pitcher who has gone on to help the University of Oklahoma win back-to-back Women’s College World Series titles.
Broughton’s softball teams had struggled until Parker arrived.
And when she first stepped on the mound, he knew things would be different for his Patriots.
In fact, they won more games in Parker’s freshman year than they had the previous three seasons.
“When Paige got here,” Broughton quipped, “I became a pretty good coach.”
He was smiling when he made that comment, and today, Truman softball coach Dan Harper has plenty to smile about, too.
After going 8-21 in his first season two years ago, he has seen his Patriots slowly become a force to be reckoned with in Eastern Jackson County.
They won 12 games last year, and this they year have seven wins through their first 10 games.
“Steve was right,” Parker said, chuckling, “talent can make you a pretty good coach. So can a team full of leaders. And that’s what we have this year at Truman. This is a student-led team – and I’m talking everything from dealing with problems within the team to stretching before practice.”
Last March, Harper took sophomore pitcher Kara Amos, junior catcher Chloe Armstrong and senior outfielder Lexi Lopez to a leadership conference in Liberty, and the dividends are a stronger and more successful team.
“I wanted to take a sophomore, junior and senior and I couldn’t have taken three better players or young ladies,” Harper said. “The attitude on this year’s team is 180 degrees different than it was last year, and I think that’s because of the great leaders we have on the team.”
Amos has not allowed an earned run this season, and has developed into the Patriots’ new ace with help from freshman Myel White in the circle. The duo combined for five straight shutouts earlier this season.
“I was nervous last year as a freshman,” Amos explained. “I’ve played competitive ball all my life, but I was playing against most of the girls who were my age. It’s just a different atmosphere in high school, and it took me awhile to get used to it.
“Now, I just go out and pitch and don’t worry about being a freshman or a sophomore. I’m just a member of the Patriots and I’m having so much fun – we all are.”
Armstrong is the Patriots’ coach on the field, as she has developed into a vocal leader behind the plate. She also has seven home runs this season, just two shy of the team mark of nine.
“Offense from a catcher is an added bonus and Chloe is having a great year, as is Kara,” Harper said. “They work so well together, it’s fun to watch. And no one takes their eyes off Chloe when she’s at the plate.
“She has a couple of home runs off the rock walls out at Adair, and that’s a poke!”
Armstrong said this season has been special for many reasons.
“We’re having fun and we’re winning, and that makes any season special,” Armstrong said. “I love catching Kara because she’s a great pitcher. When any of our pitchers are on the mound we are confident, but when Kara is pitching, you can just feel the confidence from everyone.”
When asked about her home runs, Armstrong grins and said, “I just get up to the plate, take a deep breath, and see what happens. I never try to hit a home run, but I always try to hit the ball hard.”
Lopez is the likeable “Mother Hen” of the young Patriots.
“They all call me ‘Mom,’ or the “Mother Hen,’” said Lopez, who remembers the down days of being a Patriot. “I think we won four games my freshman year, but now, it’s so different. I love my girls and I love playing softball for Truman.
“It’s all so positive and so amazing. We love what Coach Harper is doing with the team and we’re winning. Winning! And that makes it fun for everyone.”