Archive for Monday, March 23, 2015

Tonganoxie High softball looks to improve in 2015

March 23, 2015

The Tonganoxie High softball team enters the 2015 without familiar faces thanks to graduation.

Pitcher Morgan Oroke and catcher Laney Walker were seniors last year, as were shortstop Cally Engle-Maxwell and centerfielder Marissa Martin.

But this year’s team has plenty of returners whom coach Stephanie Wittman expects to be big contributors in the new season.

The Chieftains have senior Bree Cash and junior Hallie Calovich in the outfield, along with junior Sierra Graham at second base. Sophomore Taylor Lee is at first base and also pitches.

Senior outfielders Haley Knipp and Samantha Jones will be competing for playing time as well. Both have been in the program all four years and round out Tonganoxie’s three-person senior class.

“I would say that we are at a higher level than we were last year at this time,” Wittman said. “Expectations are super high as always and we’re looking to compete at a higher level in league this year.”

Jones agreed.

"We're trying to keep it positive and have more energy," Jones said. "It's a young team, but we have a lot of trust in them."

Cash and Knipp added that communication on the field has been good and they are eyeing a postseason run this year.

Before the postseason comes the regular season and a loaded Kaw Valley League schedule.

Mill Valley and Basehor-Linwood have been the top teams in the Kaw Valley League “on a consistent basis,” according to Wittman.

She expects the same this year.

Basehor-Linwood ended Tonganoxie’s season last year with a 12-4 victory against the Chieftains, who finished 5-14.

Though the Bobcats didn’t advance to state, they finished the season 17-6.

Mill Valley advanced to the Class 5A state tournament where the Jaguars lost in the quarterfinals. MVHS finished the year 18-5.

Wittman knows THS will need to get some experience under its belt after losing last year’s senior class.

“Losing our senior pitcher and catcher and core group of seniors we had last year, this is one of the classes it will be hard to replace for a couple of years, just due to their softball experience,” she said.

The THS coach, though, said her staff feels as though the team has a good core group of players returning.

And at the all-important catcher position, Wittman looks for freshman Audrey Miller to step right in.

“She has a lot of softball experience,” Wittman said. “That’s good to see in a catching position. She’s vocal.”

The varsity team opens the season Thursday in Kansas City, Kan., against Bishop Ward and then travels April 7 to Basehor-Linwood and April 14 to Bonner Springs.

The team won’t be home until an April 21 doubleheader against Lansing.

Wittman said the biggest key early would be to get out and play somebody.

“I think getting the first couple games out of the way,” she said. “Getting over the lull of three weeks and having the chance to play against another team at this point.”

That’s the bottom line for Wittman as the Chieftains head into the 2015 season.

“Just compete, compete, compete,” she said.

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