Jim Brandner finds a cool spot to visit about his 2019 Blue Springs High School softball team, and grins.
“Four years,” said Brandner, who enters his fourth year as the Wildcats head coach after serving as a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach under Roger Lower for 22 years. “It’s gone by so fast. But it’s exciting to think about my fourth year as a head coach and what we can do this year.”
That excitement filters down to his team, especially players like Savannah Maynard and Bella Andrews, two four-year starters who have become leaders for the Wildcats.
“As much as we’ve seen our team grow, I think we’ve seen Coach Brandner grow too, and that’s exciting for me since I was a freshman when he became the (head) coach,” said Maynard, who will play center field this season.
“I’m super excited for this season because we have the most talent of any team I’ve been a part of, and we have a great coaching staff, from Coach Brandner to his assistants. They know what they’re talking about.”
When asked about the past three years, Maynard chuckled and said, “I can’t really believe this is my fourth year being a part of this team. It’s all gone by so fast – and I really want to enjoy this year and make every game, every practice, everything about the season special.
“You know how much it means to Coach, and it means that much to us, too – especially the girls who have been playing for him for such a long time. I think this season could really be special.”
So does Andrews, who will play third base this season.
“Gosh, four years, and I feel like I’m just a freshman – it goes by way too fast,” Andrews said. “Coach Brandner is the only high school coach I’ve had, and it has been so much to grow up right alongside him and watch our team grow and develop over the years.
“I want more than anything to win state and I think we have the special coaches and players to have the chance to do that this year. We have some exciting freshmen and a lot of players back from last year.”
Eight seniors and 11 overall players return from a 15-15 team that had one of the toughest schedules in the state.
“Just look at our conference schedule, with losses to Blue Springs South, the eventual state champion, and great teams like Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit North – and we played Park Hill South, Troy (Buchanan). We played some great teams and our girls learned something from everyone of those games.
“This year, Savannah and Bella will be starting for the fourth year in a row, and we have a great leader in our catcher, Maddie Kielty. We were 15-15 last year with a young team and so many of our players are back.
“I know it’s about 100 degrees outside right now, but I can tell you all our girls would get out there and play this afternoon if they had the chance.”
While Brandner praises his team, he also talks in glowing terms about a coaching staff that includes two former state champion Wildcats.
“Anna Cole and Lauren Eisenreich were important players on our 2008 undefeated state championship team,” Brandner said. “And we have Mark Haley, who will be our C team coach, and he played baseball here at Blue Springs.
“They know what they’re talking about and they have the utmost respect of our players.”