The Truman softball team made some major strides in the 2017 season.
After three consecutive losing seasons, the Patriots finished with a 23-6 record after falling to Blue Springs in a 1-0, nine-inning thriller during the semifinals of the Class 4 District 14 tournament.
This season, head coach Dan Harper is looking for an even better season. His Patriots will aim for the program’s first district championship since 2013, when four-time NCAA All-American Paige Parker donned the red, white and blue.
Truman returns a solid core of seven starters who will be the centerpiece.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” Truman pitcher Kara Amos said. “We have a lot of talent coming in. We will be solid all year.”
The Patriots had three seniors graduate from last year’s team, including Lexi Lopez, Gracie Eckberg and Paige Butler.
However, among the returners are the Patriots two top pitchers in Kara Amos and Myel White. Amos was nearly unhittable, tossing 94 1/3 innings while posting a microscopic 0.59 ERA, a .090 WHIP and striking out 131 batters.
She relies a lot on the spin rate and movement of her pitches and in the offseason, has been working on refining her arsenal.
White was nearly as good. She tossed 81 innings and mosted a 1.38 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and struck out 110 batters.
“I spent the summer perfecting some of my pitches,” White said. “They are not fully perfected, but they are getting better.”
With those two returning and six position players back, the pitching and defense for this year’s squad should be its primary strength.
“I couldn’t ask for two better pitchers,” Harper said. “They are two of the top in the area. We’re really fortunate in the pitching area.
On offense, Harper said he hopes to see some improvement from last season. It will help that catcher Chloe Armstrong, who had a monster season at the plate in 2017, will be back to hit in the middle of the lineup. The senior broke the school record with 14 home runs and added 45 RBIs last season while being named Examiner Player of the Year. She also posted a .473 batting average and a ridiculous 1.642 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
“Hitting 14 home runs in high school softball is almost unheard of,” Harper said.
Amos and White provide some pop in the lineup, too. Amos hit .389, had a 1.224 OPS and had four home runs, 28 RBIs and a team-high 15 doubles. White had a .417 average, a 1.293 OPS and chipped in seven home runs and 26 RBIs.
Kennedy Rucker provides speed at the top of lineup. She hit .357 and had three triples and seven stolen bases. Melanie Johnson, who hit fifth last year, returns as a utility player; Michaela Arnzen comes back to play somewhere in the field; and Joni Oswald is back to play shortstop.
The remaining three to four spots on the field will be filled by last year’s junior varsity players and possibly freshmen.
“We should have a good year with this good of a core coming back,” Harper said. “Pitching is the key. If we can throw something together as far as offense, we will be OK. We’re really excited. We should be better than last year and we were 23-6.
“The big thing for us is to get over that district hump. I think that’s definitely feasible this year.”