Chieftains return full squad
Assistant takes over as head coach for team that earned state berth
They're hungry for another state berth.
The Tonganoxie High girls softball team made its first appearance at state last season, only to lose in the first round to eventual state champion Augusta.
The 2006 THS squad went 20-4, but graduated no seniors.
So things are looking up in Tonganoxie these days.
The only difference this season is in the coaching ranks. Diane Titterington, who was a junior varsity coach last season, takes over for co-coaches Debbie Himpel and Craig Lohman.
But that doesn't take away from the task at hand.
"The girls are shooting for state, that's our expectation, that's our goal ... we want to get back there and take it this year," Titterington said.
The first-year head coach has 32 players out this season.
"We are really, really deep, which is a great thing," Titterington said. "We could go six deep in the outfield; two deep in almost all infield positions."
The Chieftains are led by senior Amie Riddle, who was the squad's pitching ace last year, and Sarah Schlicht and Mallory Cartwright.
And then there's the junior class. There are 10 junior on this year's squad: Lindsey Himpel, Tracie Hileman, Ashlee Lohman, Amanda Albert, Hannah Herrstrom, Shannon Carlin, Melissa Pratt, Jenna Nehl, Sarah Flaherty and Jessie Whitledge.
"Most of that junior class have really been looking good," Titterington said.
Himpel, like her sister, sophomore Lauren Himpel, were all-area selections by the Lawrence Journal-World last spring.
Carlin, meanwhile, is in her first year playing for the Chieftains. Junior Roxie Grizzle isn't playing this season, as she is strictly competing in track. Her sister Roni, however, is playing softball.
Titterington said the team was quite talented and possesses what she calls "the fastest outfield of anybody."
She said the Chieftains have a great deal of depth in pitching. By the same token, the squad doesn't have weaknesses at any position, Titterington said.
As for taking over as head coach, she said it was an adjustment in behind-the-scenes work, but the transition otherwise has been smooth. She's now "calling the shots," but said it's basically business as usual.
After all, Titterington has competed herself at the high school, collegiate and international levels.
The Chieftains open the season Thursday afternoon in a doubleheader against Jeff West. Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 will show the opener as its game of the week. The game may be seen on a tape-delay basis at 10:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.
The season will continue with another home doubleheader against Basehor-Linwood on April 5 at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.