Local players have quite the Impact on softball
The Kansas City Impact Under 16 softball team trailed 2-0 in the American Fastpitch Association "B" nationals earlier this summer in Lawrence.
There was one out.
Maria Carr stood at third base, ready to bolt toward home plate. Her teammate hit a pop-fly. Her coach thought the ball was going out of the park. He told her to run.
The ball fell short. Out number two.
Carr was too far from third to get back to the base in time. Out number three. Game over.
Despite the setback, Carr quickly got over the hurt of losing in the championship game.
"It was two to nothing. The game could've gone any way," Carr, 16, said. "I think we did really well. I think we did an awesome job even though we came in second, that was still a great achievement."
In fact, earning second place was the team's greatest achievement at the national tournament.
The team usually finishes in the top 10, but second place was its highest finish, Carr said.
For two girls with Tonganoxie ties, Carr and Chelsea Patton, this was just one of many tournaments they have played with the Kansas City select team.
During the summer the team also placed well at the Freedom Festival in Lawrence and the AFA state tournament in Basehor. The Impact placed first at the Lawrence tournament and second at Basehor.
Carr, the granddaughter of Tonganoxie residents Stan and Mary Stanhope, said she has played in a higher age group since she was 12 years old.
She had always played in her own age bracket, but since her father, Tony Carr, was a friend of the under-18 team coach, Carr would play whenever the team needed a shortstop.
"When I was younger, I used to be really nervous about it, but I still did all right," she said about playing in the older league. "I don't mind it now."
The Kansas City Impact plays in a tournament every weekend after Memorial Day. But the national tournament is the team's favorite.
"It's a week of hanging out with the team," she said. "I don't know, I just love it. We live for nationals.
Maria isn't the only Carr who is dedicated to softball. Her mother, Mary Rose Carr, coaches a 14-and-younger Impact team for which Maria's sister, Erin, plays.
And 7-year-old sister Maddison plays coach-pitch softball.
Patton, a 15-year-old sophomore at Basehor-Linwood, has been a longtime teammate of Carr's. Patton has played softball since third grade, but during the last four years she's played competitive ball, all for the Impact. Patton said Maria's father impressed her as a coach when she decided to start playing competitive ball.
Patton, who played on Basehor-Linwood's state softball team last spring, is the daughter of Bob and Nancy Patton. Nancy is a third-grade teacher at Tonganoxie Elementary School.
Softball definitely is in Patton's blood. When Patton finished competing for Basehor-Linwood last May in the Class 4A state tournament in Salina, she headed back to Basehor and played three games for the Impact that night.
Normally positioned at second base, Patton plays at shortstop to replace Carr when she moves to catcher.
When Patton was playing 12-and-younger ball, she started playing in tournaments that actually were 16-and-younger divisions.
She was the youngest Impact player again this year, but Patton said adjusting to older divisions wasn't difficult.
"I didn't really see a difference," Patton said.
She said pitching was the hardest adjustment. And after having a few at-bats, Patton said the transition was smooth.
Playing in competitive softball is a time-consuming endeavor. Most summer weekends are spent at softball tournaments.
"It was a long summer, I'll put it that way," Patton said.
While the competitive season consists of several games, the high school season is much shorter.
"I think school ball is more focused because you only play 20 games and substate," Patton said.
With the competitive season, Patton said, players know there will be another tournament to play in the next week -- until August when national tournaments roll around.
Playing for the Impact, though, isn't just about softball, Patton noted.
Players coordinate sleepovers throughout the summer.
When the team played in Lawrence, players stayed in a hotel there for a full week.
That's when the team needed a hiatus from the togetherness.
"We were in a hotel from Sunday to Sunday, so that was a little long," Patton said.
This summer marked Patton's final season with the Impact. Because many of the players on the team are older, they would not be returning for 16-and-younger competition, Patton said.
She now is playing for a Missouri softball team called the White Sox, an 18-and-younger "A" level team.
Patton, who also plays volleyball and basketball at BLHS, also played soccer a few years ago before her family moved to this area from St. Louis.
But softball is her top sport.
It's what she does now, and she hopes to continue to do in the future.
"I want to play college ball," Patton said.
-- Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.