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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

VETERANS TO LEAD EHS BASEBALL By Zach DeLoach zach@emporia.com

Emporia baseball returns in 2021 with work to do, as the Spartans have just three players this season who have experience starting in varsity competition. However, after losing the entirety of the 2020 season save for 10 practices, sixth-year Spartan head coach Anthony Markowitz said that the seniors have taken it upon themselves to step up for their team. “Our seniors, I think, have done a great job. They’ve been great leaders and I think they’ve really taken ownership of the program and truly understand what we missed out on last year,” Markowitz said. However, behind the seniors is a class of juniors who have only one year of high school baseball experience, and that was at the junior varsity level when they were freshmen. “As far as this team’s concerned, the biggest thing we’re seeing now is some of our juniors are still in I wouldn’t say a ‘sophomore mindset,’ but they missed out on a whole year of high school baseball,”

Markowitz said. “They got the chance to play in the summer, but it’s just different in high school baseball when you can practice every day and there’s a lot of things that we could put in and a lot of practice experience that those guys missed out on last year.” Markowitz said the lack of experience his players have is the greatest hurdle facing them this year. However, now that the team is able to get back out on the practice field, he believes that things will start to come along with time. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys with some skill. It’s just putting it all together on the field and we’re a long ways away from there right now,” Markowitz said. “But that’s what’s exciting also. I think that we have a chance to get a lot better as the year goes along.” Senior infielder Kadyn Williams has played the most innings in a Spartan uniform, starting every varsity game of his sophomore season. Ethan Garate, a senior pitcher, spent enough time on the mound during his sophomore year to be “battle-


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tested,” according to Markowitz. And Camden Kirmer, another senior, was a reserve outfielder for the varsity squad as a sophomore and also came in frequently as a pinch runner. A few juniors that Markowitz expects to fill important positions are Cam Geitz, Logan Thomas, Hunter Redeker and Vance Kinsey, while sophomore Bobby Trujillo will set up behind the plate as a catcher. Markowitz knows that, with the paucity of experience on his roster, the on-field product might not be perfectly crisp at the start of the season. However, the goal is to improve each day so that, by the time postseason play begins, the Spartans are prepared to make a run. “[We’re] just trying to be our best at the end of the year and find a way to win and advance when it comes down to the win or go home stage of our season,” he said. “I think we have a shot to do that if we just come in with the right mindset each day.” The Spartans can make up for their inexperience by executing the right plays in

the right spots, particularly those ordinary plays that should be made with ease. “[We need to be] able to make routine plays,” Markowitz said. “We’ve got guys that’ll throw strikes on the mound, but no one that’s going to really overpower anybody. That’s yet to be seen, but I think if the other team’s going to put the ball in play, we’ve got to be able to make plays behind [our pitchers].”

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A lot has changed for Emporia softball since the last time the team took the field: former assistant Aaron Hammond is now the head coach, home games will be played at Peter Pan Park instead of Trusler Sports Complex and the varsity lineup will be spattered with new names. “There’s been a number of changes, but in a way, it’s just starting over fresh for everybody,” Hammond said. The Spartans return just one senior this year in Kaylee Thomas, and while there are six juniors on the roster, the last time they played high school softball was when they were freshmen. “This team’s much different than two years ago,” Hammond said. “Two years ago we had some really good contact hitters and a couple of power hitters. This year we don’t have quite as much of that but we do more speed than in years past. So you’ve got to play

with the kids that you’ve got, obviously.” Hammond said that the excitement level around the program is high, from the kids to their parents and even to members of the community that he runs into while out and about. After not getting to play last year, the anticipation has been building and so has the appreciation of the opportunity to play. Hammond said Thomas brings a wealth of experience to the team. “She’s been around. She got some playing time even back when she was a freshman, so she’s all-in on softball, for sure,” he said. Several Spartan juniors spent time with the varsity squad when they were freshmen in 2019 and understand what it takes to compete at the 5A level. “They’ve been to the state tournament and seen some of the high-level softball that even our league has to offer,” Hammond said. Juniors Gracie Gilpin and Rylea Harris will be the primary pitchers for


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Emporia this season, and Hammond expressed confidence in their ability to take on that role. Additionally, sophomore Shaylee Ginter may spend some time in the pitcher’s circle as well. Another young Spartan who may see varsity time is sophomore Kaylee Reimer. “Kaylee Reimer is one that's kind of surprised us a little bit this year,” Hammond said. “We knew she had some athletic ability last year in just the half -dozen practices or whatever we had, but yeah, she's really impressed us coaches here and we're excited to see what she can do in a live game.” As for what to expect from the Spartans on the field this year, Hammond said that was difficult to put his finger on with all of the unique factors going into the season. “I expect us to be competitive in every doubleheader that we play, but that’s kind of a hard question to answer [with] a new coach and then not playing last year,” he said. “What do these

other schools, what are they returning? What do they look like? … Just being competitive.” Hammond said that his team will rely upon quality pitching and using its speed on the basepaths to “scratch across runs that we normally wouldn’t have in the past.”

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

WOLFDOG BASEBALL LOOKS TO MAKE NOISE IN 2021 By Zach DeLoach zach@emporia.com

After posting its best record in program history in 2019, the Lebo-Waverly baseball team looks to go even further in 2021, the program’s fifth year of existence. The WolfDogs bring back a strong core of upperclassmen with high-quality baseball experience, but beyond them, third-year head coach Jason Konrade said there is some uncertainty. “I think [not playing in 2020] leaves a lot of question marks about where guys will step up and where they’ll step in,” he said. “ … You don’t really know how kids will fill in, if they’ll be much improved from that first year working with them. There’s certainly a lot of questions, but I’m excited because this is a good group of baseball guys. They have a lot of baseball experience under their belt and so I trust that that’s going to serve them well and we’ll be able to put together a pretty successful year.” Many of Lebo-Waverly’s upperclassmen play baseball as their primary sport and at least four of them have aspirations of

playing after high school. It’s those players — six of whom gained quality experience in 2019 — that Konrade said will need to be solid as the rest of the team finds their niche around them. “We’ll look to them to lead the way on the pitching mound and certainly with their fielding abilities as well at other positions,” he said. He pointed to Caleb Fehr, Jerome Ferguson, Kyle Reese and Jonas Konrade to fuel the offense. “We definitely will be planning on relying on them quite a bit for hitting and run production, RBIs in the middle of that order,” Konrade said. However, those with high school baseball experience will not be enough to fill all nine positions on the field. With 2020 getting wiped, both freshmen and sophomores will be getting their feet wet for the first time in high school competition. “There’ll be some young guys, and as a coach, what you’re looking at is how these guys are going to step up and fill in where you need them,” Konrade said. He expects that sophomores Isaac


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Durst, Landon Grimmett and Joey Del Percio along with freshman Corey Reese are some of the underclassmen who will need to grow up quickly to put in some valuable innings for the WolfDogs. This season, Konrade hopes to improve upon 2019’s .500 record and bring LeboWaverly its first-ever winning season. Additionally, he would love to see the team win at least its first game in regional play, if not more. He understands, however, that LeboWaverly will have to face teams from much larger schools and with more established programs. “In baseball, you have to have a lot of luck along the way to get you there, so certainly depending on the regional draw, being a real small 1A school you’re up against more powerhouse 2A schools, so it depends on how it all falls out,” he said. To get to that first winning season, Konrade said that the WolfDogs need to be much better defensively than they were in 2019, particularly when more inexperienced pitchers are out on the mound. “We have to play consistent defense,” he said. “I told them yesterday, we’ve got to

make the routine defensive play. We can’t give away those errors, letting runners on, letting runners advance and score. We’ve got to be able to have a defense that makes the plays. We have two good pitchers starting on the mound but after that, we’re going to have guys coming in to pitch for us [with less experience]. Defensively, we’ve got to be the team that makes the plays behind those guys. So, if we can do that, I really feel like we’ve got a chance to make a lot of noise and late-season run.”

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Lebo-Waverly headed into the 2020 softball season filled with optimism after a 2019 campaign in which the WolfDogs went 12-6. However, they never got to play a game. “We were set to have a really good year. We had a really good class of seniors that were really good athletes, hit with power and had good pitching. It was extremely frustrating,” said head coach Josh Oswald. In 2021, Lebo-Waverly turns over a new leaf with last year’s seniors gone and now with a roster where more than half of its players have no high school softball experience. One of the biggest holes that needs to be plugged is in the pitcher’s circle. “We’re developing pitchers this year and it’s going good, a little bit better than I expected,” Oswald said. “I think that’s probably one of the things that we’re working the most is getting to where we can pitch. If we can’t pitch, we’re not going to

win any games. So far, we’ve got three that we’re trying to develop right now. They’ve been doing a really, really good job. I’m happy with where we’re at but we’ve got a lot of work to do.” One of those new pitchers is the lone senior on the team, Macy Fairchild. She has played third base most of her career, but Oswald will also look for her to take on some of the pitching duties this year. “She’s doing a really good job of taking on a new role. … She’s stepped up to the pitcher spot really well so far. She’s working hard,” Oswald said. Brooklyn Jones is a sophomore who will play shortstop for the WolfDogs this year. “She’s a very good athlete, very good arm, hits for power, so I’m looking for big things from her,” Oswald said. After having a solid player behind home plate the last four seasons, Oswald said he’s going to start a freshman at catcher. “It’s extremely nerve-racking. It’s the first in my career [starting a freshman catcher],” he said. “It’s a very, very tough


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position to fill.” Oswald’s goal this season is not necessarily to reach a specific record or accomplishment but to see his very young team grow into solid, experienced players who are capable of hanging with more experienced opponents. “What I want to see is improvement, each game we get better,” he said. “ … As long as we improve every game, we’ll be just fine in the overall record. We do play a lot of bigger schools, good teams, so what I’m looking at is to compete with them into the seventh inning, when we’re right there to possibly steal a win. I think we’re going to shock people too. At least that’s what we’re shooting for.” For Lebo-Waverly to be successful, each player will need to know their responsibility on the field and fulfill that responsibility every chance they get, both for themselves and for the team as a whole. “Basically, I preach this in practice, but let’s try to be accountable for our errors,” Oswald said. “So I expect each of my

players to be accountable to themselves and their teammates, so if they make an error, ‘What did I do wrong? How can I improve so I can try to eliminate that the next game?’ I think they’re doing a really good job of that so far. You’re going to have errors. It’s going to happen. But how you improve and make it into a strength is what I’m about. And then hopefully by the end of the year, we’re clicking on all cylinders going into regionals.” Oswald said that what he appreciates the most about the squad he has, young as it is, is the players’ willingness to work hard and learn. “I really enjoy their effort. For girls that, some of them have just come out and this is their first year, it can be really intimidating coming into a high school program and you haven’t played softball all that much,” he said. “They’re listening well and I can tell they’re applying what they’re learning, and that’s really huge. I think they’re wanting to compete and their effort is showing that we’re getting better every day.”


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The Northern Heights High School girls softball team is coming back to the field with some unfinished business after a heartbreaking end to the 2019 season. The Wildcats were just one strike away from making it to the 2-1A SubState tournament when Burlingame stole home to tie up the game. The Bearcats would bring in another run in the eighth inning, leaving NHHS with a 6-5 loss. NHHS head coach Elly Dice said the girls were ready to return in 2020 with a renewed fight. Then, with just two weeks of practices underway, the season was canceled. “For us as a team, it literally felt like the wind had just been knocked out of us,” Dice said. “The way we ended our season in 2019 when we were literally one strike away from sub-state? … We had to go through the whole summer and fall and, finally, we hit softball season and I had everyone returning with the exception of two seniors that had graduated.” The loss of last year’s season, on top of 2019’s heartbreaker, took a toll the Class of 2020. “It was very emotional,” Dice said. “It was that gut-wrenching feeling we


had from that loss and then the season didn’t happen. We could not meet in person as a team and I had to address the team over Zoom. Our seniors, Andrea Wilson, Khylee Massey and Kaylee Burton, they never got the opportunity to play. I think the loss was just really difficult.” Now, Dice said the Wildcats are coming into the 2021 season ready to take care of that unfinished business from 2019, and then some. With 24 girls out this season — double from when Dice took over the program in 2018 — NHHS has a

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strong lineup of returning players that are ready to make an impact and newcomers that are excited to show what they’ve got. Seniors Caleigh Smart, Samantha Myers, MeKenzy Lucas and Marissa Dreasher will be back on the field this year. “Caleigh is a solid first baseman for us and has been all three years that I’ve coached her,” Dice said. “Samantha is a good utility player; I can play her in the outfield, she’s got a lot of speed in left field and we’ve been practicing with her as an infielder because we did have a lot

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of graduating seniors last year.” Lucas, a pitcher, is another utility player that the Wildcats can always count on. Another senior, Kaylyn Schrock, will be unable to play due to an injury. “She’s not going to be able to play this year, and that’s going to leave a big hole for us because she’s a solid outfielder,” Dice said. “But Kaylyn is still part of our team and she’s taken on kind of that manager role and is just helping with practices. She’s showing Please see Heights, Page 14

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With a strong lineup of returning players and some promising newcomers, the Northern Heights Wildcats are looking for a fresh beginning — and a .500 or better season — for 2021. “We have a huge infusion of young players and a couple of transfers bringing a new look and feel to our program,” said NHHS head coach Shawn Wilson, who is returning for his seventh year. “It's like a fresh beginning. It's been great so far.” And, after almost two years away from the field, that’s exactly what the program needs after losing out on the 2020 season. “It was a bummer for sure,” he said. “To have a perennial all-league player like Tee Preisner not get to see how he finishes his career was painful. I really felt bad for my other seniors who had invested a lot of their high school careers into the program, to say nothing of the lost year of progress for those ‘baseball first’ guys. And having a beautiful spring weather pattern last year made it that much more regrettable.” Getting his returning players back into shape this season has been a challenge — many of them had not picked up a ball or bat in almost two years — but Wilson said the boys have been making great strides. “Most of my guys don't play baseball outside of the spring season, so I’ve had to begin practice with 90% of my players not having picked up a bat or ball in almost two years,” Wilson said. “It's been interesting for sure. But it is like riding a bike; once you get rolling again, it's amazing how quick things come back to you.

HEIGHTS From PAGE 13 that true grit as a senior and that true leadership, despite her injury.” Juniors Adrianna Brecheisen and Tristan Hahn are also back for another year. Dice is also excited to see what the new freshman class — many of whom she coached at the middle school level in basketball — can do on the field. “This is probably the biggest group


“It will be hard to replicate velocity in practice for hitters, so those first couple of games our hitters are going to have to grow up real fast.” Fortunately, the Wildcats have a strong group of returning players, including senior John Pringle on the pitching mound and all-around player junior Aaron Ross, to look up to. “John is the undisputed leader of this team, and both he and Ross play outside the spring season,” Wilson said. “They set the tone in practice and are just great guys to have around in general. John was named second team all-league his sophomore season and is the heart of our lineup and anchor to our pitching staff. “Aaron brings the baseball acumen to play just about anywhere on the field as well as give us innings on the mound and work some time behind

that has played,” she said. “I think these girls have grown up playing summer league together, and it shows.” With other strong programs in the league again this year, Dice said the Wildcats aren’t going to go down without a fight. “I feel like my returning juniors and seniors feel this as well, that we owe it to that 2020 season, to Andy and to Khylee, and Kaylee Burton,” Dice said. “To do it for them not getting the opportunity to step on the field one more time. I kind of push that on the girls. I think that’s our big motivator.”

the plate.” Newcomers include senior Cody Medlen, a catcher who transferred to NHHS last year but didn’t get to play due to the pandemic. Another transfer is sophomore Kolden Ryberg — a lefthanded pitcher and centerfielder. “Both come in bringing plenty of baseball experience,” Wilson said. With a 4-14 record in 2019, Wilson said it’s been awhile since the Wildcats have put together a .500 or better season. But, he’s confident he’s got the

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NORTHERN HEIGHTS SCHEDULE MAR 18 • @ Council Grove APR 1 • @ Lyndon APR 9 • VS Central Heights APR 16 • VS Chase County APR 19 • @ West Franklin APR 23 • VS Wabaunsee

players to make it happen. “We have about seven to eight guys who I can confidently run out there on the mound and throw strikes,” he said. The Wildcats will be looking for “healthy, consistent pitching” as a key success-maker, as well as strong clubbing at the plate. “While I think our defense is much improved over years past, our hitting will need to step up to compete with the better teams of this league,” Wilson said.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021


BULLDOGS KEEP EYES ON THE PRIZE Last season, the Chase County softball team had the right combination and was eyeing its chance at getting into the state tournament. Then, the pandemic shut down the season right before it got to play. Now, the Bulldogs are looking back to heading to state. “Missing out on that was really tough,” said head coach Brian Potter. “Three seniors graduated, that is making it, well, you know, will make it tough. It was disappointing to miss that opportunity last year.”

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Now, Potter said the excitement level outside sport.” to play again is fantastic among the team. Potter anticipates a challenge to occur The focus and determination is greater with the underclassmen — sophomores now than ever before. who did not get to experience a full sea“There are a lot of kids that truly re- son last year and incoming freshmen. alize how much they missed sports,” he However, a big difference for the girls is said. “So far this year, they have gotten they will be relying on the freshmen and back to sports, but it is still really restrict- sophomores to make up 40% of the startUSDwhere 284 Chaseing County Schools ed. There have been a lot of times lineup — compared to other schools August 10, 7:00 am-7:00 pm they have been quarantined off and on, where 90% August 11, 8:00 am-12:00 pm of the starting team are juor the other team has been quarantined niors and seniors. K-12 Enrollment at Chase County and they have missed out on games.Junior-Senior [The High School girls] are very excited about having an Please see CC Softball, Page 15

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Chase County baseball coach Alex Weiss and his team were excited to play what would have been Weiss’ first season with the team and the seniors’ last year — but then the pandemic came and canceled the spring season. “We did get to play in the summer a little bit,” he said. “So, they got some games in. They were able to have somewhat of a season. … Everybody kind of [was] shot to [the] gut, but everybody got through it. We are looking forward to this season. Everything is going good so far, but knock on wood.” Fortunately, because the team got to play 20 to 30 games over the summer, Weiss does not foresee any challenges on his team. The boys have brought back the same energy to practice everyday this year

CC SOFTBALL From PAGE 14 Senior Audrey Tubach was an allstate player her freshman year who will

just like they did last year. The only hiccups will be a hurdle every other team will face — different precautions at practices and games as the pandemic continues on. “We have some young guys that are going to be pretty important to us, they just got up in high school. So, we are looking for them to fill some pretty big roles,” he said. Seniors Blaise Holloway, Trint Rogers, Tylon Ybarra, Lathe Watkins and junior Rhett Reyer are some players Weiss anticipates to make an impact this season. Holloway, Rogers and Ybarra are all three-sport athletes in football and basketball as well. Watkins had not played baseball in a while as he just joined the team last season. Nonetheless, Weiss is sure Watkins will have a big impact on the team. Reyer always finds a way to score and he has a good defense. “The young guys, couple sophomores Taylor Palenske, Kaleb Fetrow, they will be

returning and then we have a transfer, Cal Kohlmeier. He will be joining us this year and then we have some freshmen,” he said. Since Weiss did not get to experience the spring season entirely last year, this season will be his first time seeing the league. He plans to just keep his eyes open, focus on the boys playing game correctly and doing things fundamentally right. “We have a lot of speed, we have some good arms. If we just play defense and hit the ball, like we have been in practice, I think we will be just fine and that is all we can do,” he said. “Control things we can control, attitude and our effort. Just play baseball the right way and the rest will take care of itself. That is my expectation for us, the guys seem to understand that and they agree if we do those things right - then everything will be good - that is all we can do.” Weiss is fortunate to have a team with the right attitude, effort and the desire

to get better everyday. The team takes in everything and does a great job staying together and showing each other respect. “They are here for one common goal and that is to go play some baseball games,” he said. “I say, wi th their attitude and their effort, be smart on and off the field, keep getting better then those will be pretty important keys for us to win some games.”

be returning, along with junior Abby Tubach. Brylee Potter who is a twotime, first team all-state centerfielder will move to shortstop this season. Freshmen Kinzie Rogers has great speed and will play a variety of positions and Karsen Vandegrift has great

experience to bring to the team. Sophomore Grace O’Brien will take over the centerfield position this year. Brian Potter’s goal for his team this season is to develop further as a team and have opportunities to win the regional tournament and get back to the

state tournament, like it did in 2019. “I am just really looking forward to this season and looking forward to being back on the field and looking forward to the opportunity that these girls are going to have. Excited to get back on the field,” he said.

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southern lyon county


‘THE SKY IS THE LIMIT’ FOR SLC BASEBALL By Zach DeLoach zach@emporia.com

The fact that the Southern Lyon County baseball team is just three years old and will play its second season of competition this year is purely coincidental and mostly irrelevant to firstyear head coach Dalton Laird. “It’s a new beginning from here on out. The sky is the limit for us,” Laird said. “Our goal this year is to make it to state. I believe that’s realistic.” Laird said that there is no reason to believe that SLC won’t be successful this year. After all, the team is a combination of kids from Hartford and Olpe, which won state in football and boys basketball this year. The challenge will be that the team

is lacking in on-field experience, as most of the SLC players didn’t grow up playing baseball and didn’t have the 2020 season to practice every day and play games. However, Laird is still encouraged by what he’s seen so far through preseason practice this year. “They’re hungry young kids. They’re willing to work, they’re willing to put the effort in, and I think by the end of the season they’ll be great,” he said.” … There’s no reason that, athleticallywise, that we can’t compete with whoever we play in baseball. What they were lacking was the fundamentals and we’ve had time to work on that and I believe that our athletes are fast learners.” Laird said he’s going to lean on some of his upperclass leaders who are good

baseball players but who also provide a level of maturity that will benefit the whole team. Senior Kynden Roberts, Laird said, is a vocal leader on the team and will also make an impact offensively and defensively. Junior Damon Redeker has experience at shortstop and on the mound and senior Jordan Barnard will provide a quality glove on the infield and a quality bat in the lineup. The only position Laird expressed concern about was catcher, where SLC will rotate between freshman Ethan Redeker and sophomore Blake Redeker. Laird said that, while they don’t have much experience behind the plate, they bring other qualities that will help them succeed in that vital role. “They have the athletic ability to do

it … and I’m confident that they’ll get there, I really am,” he said. “They’re hungry enough to put in the work and they’re going to bring the effort every day.” Another young player Laird expects will see pivotal playing time is freshman Braydon Fowler, a left-handed pitcher with a wealth of past baseball experience. “He’s probably ahead of a lot of even some of the older kids. He just knows the game very well,” Laird said. “When he’s on the mound, he’s confident and he’s going to be a big factor for us this year. I’m really looking forward to what he brings to the table.” Please see SLC Baseball, Page 18


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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southern lyon county



The cancellation of the 2020 high

school softball season will have an impact on every team getting back to action this year, but perhaps none more so than Southern Lyon County.

The program played its first year in 2019 and went winless. Year two, 2020, was supposed to be the time for SLC to take a substantial step forward, but

the plug was pulled before a game was played. Please see SLC Girls, Page 19

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SLC BASEBALL From PAGE 16 In order for SLC to reach the levels of success Laird believes are possible, he said he just needs his players to be willing to put forth everything they have whenever they take the field, whether in practice or in games. “If they bring the right attitude and effort every day, I believe in our coaching staff and our coaching abilities to get our kids to where they need to be fundamentally and skill-wise as long as they bring the attitude and effort every day,” he said. “That boils down to, during the games, if we do the little things right, minimize the errors, we will be a successful team. There’s no doubt in my mind.” Laird said he wants this baseball team to reach what he termed the “Olpe standard” as it relates to athletic success, but recognizes that his isn’t exclusively an Olpe team. He said his goal is to bring the Hartford boys into the fold and have them be just as much a part of the team’s success.

“It’s been a little challenge to integrate that with the Hartford side as well, but we want the Hartford kids to adopt that identity, adopt that culture, that winning standard,” Laird said. “That’s what we hope to bring back and that’s what we’re striving for, and I think by the end of the year that we’ll be there.”

SOUTHERN LYON COUNTY BASEBALL SCHEDULE APR 5 • VS Lyndon APR 8 • @ Flinthills APR 12 • @ MdCV APR 19 • @ Wabaunsee APR 22 • @ Burlington APR 23 • @ Eureka APR 26 • VS VS. Lebo/Waverly APR 29 • VS MdCV MAY 3 • @ Northern Heights MAY 6 • VS. SLC MAY 10 • VS Bluestem MAY 17 • Regionals MAY 27 • State



Shaylee Ginter Sophomore

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Derrick Morris Sophomore

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Kadyn Williams Senior

Jaxon Dial Sophomore

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SLC GIRLS From PAGE 16 “It was pretty devastating because I think we would have had a really solid second season,” said third-year head coach Chelsea Dandrea. “It was hard. We looked really good. I was really excited. And then we went on spring break and never came back.” One of the challenges of building a new high school program is that most players have little prior softball experience, as communities are less likely to invest in youth sports programs that their high schools don’t offer. “Our first year, I think five of my 16 had played within the past five years,” Dandrea said. “Now, they did a really good job, but [softball] just hadn’t been a staple of our community like some of our basketball programs have been.” Being such a new team, Dandrea knows that she will need to help her players redefine what success means for them. “They impressed me [in 2019], they knew, and we could go in our team

meeting at the end of the game and talk about what we did that was a win for us,” she said. “ ... They really had great attitudes all season long and that’s hard when you’re facing teams that, our skill could be comparable, but if you don’t have the experience, it makes a difference.” SLC returns two seniors in Sadie Pearson and Emma Cole who Dandrea said have a lot of experience and are leaders on the team. “They’re leading the team, the girls look up to them and they’re already doing very strong things, so I’m excited to see where they come,” she said. Juniors Taylor Cole and Lillian Castillo also provide the necessary combination of ability and experience. “Taylor, she’s a super strong player,” Dandrea said. “...I’ve seen extreme improvement in [Castillo’s] playing and confidence. She was one, when I came out this year and watched her, it wasn’t like we took a year off. It was like she played last year and she came back and she’s strong and ready to go. … They’re definitely leading us in the right direction.” Dandrea said that the youth on her


Tanner McGuire Senior

Chance Gilpin Senior

Page 19

team is very promising, as all of her sophomores are “deeply rooted” either in softball or athletics in general. “They want to play, they have a lot of fierceness and they’re ready to get out there and do anything that they need,” she said. Dandrea said she’s still getting to know the freshmen on the team. However, she’s been impressed by what they have shown thus far. “They’re doing some things that I’m like, ‘Wow, you’re a freshman and you’re hitting like you’re not a freshman or you’re catching like you’re not a freshman,’” Dandrea said. “... They do some things that just blow your mind.” For this season, Dandrea’s goal is for her team to be particularly successful against fellow Lyon County League foes that SLC will compete against year in and year out. “If we make an impact somewhere, I really want to make an impact in our league and those people that know us, and say [to them], ‘Yeah, we’re new, but we’re here and we’re ready to do some damage,” Dandrea said. In order to reach this goal, Dandrea said that her team needs to gain as

much experience as possible and learn their individual roles and the roles of everyone else on the team. “Once we get that concept of, ‘When the ball is hit, where’s it going to go, where am I going to go, where’s my teammate going to be so that I know what I’m doing?’ When we get all of that to click, we have the skills, it’s a matter of putting everything together,” she said.

SOUTHERN LYON COUNTY SOFTBALL SCHEDULE APR. 5 • @ Onaga APR. 9 • Burlingame (H) APR. 12 • @ MdCV APR. 15 • Wellsville (H) APR. 19 • @ Wabaunsee APR. 22 • @ Burlington APR. 26 • @ Lebo-Waverly APR. 29 • MdCV (O) MAY 6 • Prairie View (O) MAY 10 • Bluestem (O) MAY 18-22 • Regionals MAY 28-29 • State


Drew Wells Freshman

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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Profile for The Emporia Gazette

Baseball and Softball Special Section  

The Emporia Gazette's Baseball and Softball Special section featuring Emporia and area high schools.

Baseball and Softball Special Section  

The Emporia Gazette's Baseball and Softball Special section featuring Emporia and area high schools.