The Blue Springs South softball team has suffered quite of bit of heartbreak the past couple of years.
In 2016, the Jaguars made it to the Class 4 state championship game, but fell to Troy Buchanan 4-3. Last season, they lost 2-0 to Marquette after making another run to the Class 4 title game.
South knows how to win, and head coach Kristi Williams and her players want one more crack and winning a state championship this season.
“We definitely want to get back (to the state championship game), but we’re going to take it one game at a time,” South senior pitcher Easton Seib said. “One of our big goals is winning (the Suburban Big Six) Conference. We fell just short of that last year.”
South will have to try to get back to state with a bevy of new players as nine seniors graduated from last year’s runner-up squad, including outfielder Madison Crosslin, who will play at Syracuse, and Haley Woolf, now a catcher for Evansville University.
While the Jaguars lost a lot of talent, Seib, who was a part of a solid one-two punch in the circle with Sydney Righi the past two years, returns to the circle. Last season, Seib posted a 12-4 record, a 3.52 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 111 1/3 innings. However, this season, she will take on an additional role. Seib will be hitting for a full season the first time in her high school career and could provide some power. Last season, she hit .417 in 12 at-bats and had a triple and a home run.
“I have been practicing and I sometimes hit for my summer team, so that helps me prepare,” Seib said. “Now that I know I will be hitting all season, I will definitely be in the cages a lot more.”
Fellow returning varsity player Addie Lightner will join Seib in the circle, replacing Righi. She says she relies a lot on movement rather than velocity. She also provides some pop in the middle of the order. In 2017, she had a .420 batting average with a 1.110 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), two home runs, 10 doubles and 29 RBIs.
“I was having a conversation with my dad about softball the other day,” South head coach Kristi Williams said. “He said, ‘I didn’t come to very many of your games and I don’t know any of their names, but that one girl, she doesn’t ever get cheated on a swing.’
“That’s the truth about Addie. She doesn’t get cheated on a swing. She hits everything hard.”
Abby Sciara, who hit .363 and had a .414 on-base percentage, returns as a Jaguars infielder; and Raegan Hecker returns to provide some speed for South in the outfield.
Some newcomers will provide versatility as most of them can play multiple positions, Williams said. Sophomore catcher Tori Bradley, juniors Lauren Rogers and Sophie Lopez, sophomore McKenna Lester and freshmen Elle Smith and Bailey Brumley, who will also pitch some, are those who could see significant playing time.
“They all have the potential to make an impact and surprise some people,” Williams said. “We have some really good newcomers.
“We are extremely versatile. We don’t think an injury would really hurt us that bad because we have someone just as good who can step in.”
Added Seib: “Yeah, we lost some of our power, but it will be key to play good defense and get some runs in with our speed and our power.”
Seib and Lightner noted that team speed, pitching and defense are strengths for the new-look Jaguars.
“Our pitching and defense will definitely win games if we can be consistent with that,” Lightner said.
Even with so many new players entering the fray, Williams doesn’t expect there to be a drop-off.
“We have a couple of people who don’t know what it’s like not to go to state,” Williams said. “They don’t want to find out what it’s like not to go to state. (The newcomers) have some big shoes to fill. They have some expectations to follow. They expect to be playing late in October.
“Some might think we’re rebuilding because we lost nine seniors, but I think we’re going to surprise some people.”