There is something special about coach Kristi Williams’ Blue Springs South softball team.
They are confident, without being cocky, battle tested and thrilled to be heading to Springfield for their fourth consecutive Class 4 state final four appearance.
The 18-6 Jaguars placed second their first two trips to the Missouri State High School Softball Championships and won the state title last year.
“Winning last year really makes us want to win it again this year,” said Addie Lightner, who started the season at shortstop and is now one of the premier pitchers in the state as she takes a 10-1 record into today’s 10 a.m. semifinal game against 27-6 Columbia Rock Bridge, a first-time final four qualifier, at the Killian Softball Complex.
“But when you stop and think about it, it’s such a tremendous honor to be going for the fourth year in a row. Players dream about going once, and the seniors on this team have been four times – that’s pretty amazing.”
And South’s postseason run, after losing their regular-season finale to Suburban Big Six rival Lee’s Summit North, is also pretty amazing.
For the second year in a row, Lee’s Summit North – a team that had two wins over South during Suburban Big Six Conference action in the regular season – met the Jaguars in the title game. And for the second year in a row, the Jaguars came away with a heart-stopping 3-1 victory with Lightner on the mound.
It was the second year in a row the Jaguars topped their Suburban Conference opponent in the district title game.
Lightner followed with a 6-0 victory over Truman in the state sectional match – the second straight time they topped the Patriots in postseason action.
And for the second season in a row, the Jaguars bats came alive in a sectional win over Liberty, a 13-6 rout that featured four South homers. The win punched their ticket to the final four for the fourth year in a row.
“At this time of the season, we just expect to win,” Lightner said. “We take it one pitch, one inning, one game at a time. We never think about the next game until we’re done with the game we’re playing, and so far, it’s worked for us for four seasons.”
“We’re battle-tested,” Williams said. “We know what to expect from this team. We’ve stressed discipline, discipline and more discipline. And after watching our last few games, I think they were paying attention.”
For the second year in a row, coach Jim Brown’s Suburban Big Six Raymore-Peculiar team is also advancing to the final four, making two teams from the Big Six in the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
“The Big Six is a bloodbath,” joked Brown, “because every game is so tough. If you can survive our conference, you can survive anything. I’m happy for Kristi and her girls, and I hope we get the chance to play them for the title.”
Brown’s 25-5 Panthers finished third last year. They play 25-4 Northwest-Cedar Hill today, also at 10 a.m.
Williams agreed with the Panthers’ coach.
“Our conference is tough, so tough,” Williams said. “Last year we were 6-6 in conference and won state. This year, every game was a battle. Jim’s right – if you survive in our conference, you’re not going to face anything you haven’t already seen during the regular season.”