Lee’s Summit softball coach Tracy Bertoncin was fully prepared to give her players a few motivational speeches over the course of the preseason. A year after the Tigers won the Missouri Class 4 state title, Bertoncin contemplated the ways to keep the players focused.
It wasn’t necessary.
“I think what I’ve found is this group is more independently motivated,” Bertoncin said. “I think they feel the weight of it being their last season, and they want to make it memorable. Those girls never had the opportunity to play at state before last year. That was such a special experience that they really want to go deep into the postseason again.”
They’re off to a good start.
Led by eight seniors, the Tigers have opened the year 5-0, and they won the Greater Kansas City Suburban Softball Invitational at Adair Park last week, scoring victories against Kearney, Blue Springs South and Liberty in bracket play.
Four players batted at least .500 over the course of the tournament. Alexis Parker had nine hits and drove in seven runs; Bailey Baird batted .667 with six RBIs; and Natalie Dummitt and Alexis Reed also hit better than .500 during the tournament.
“This bunch of kids loves to hit. They absolutely love it,” Bertoncin said. “They even like hitting drills in practice and hitting off a tee, which isn’t necessarily normal. But they understand that repetition produces good fundamentals.”
Emily Robinson has three victories in three appearances for the Tigers. She has struck out 14 hitters. Robinson earned the win in the state championship game last season.
The Rockhurst Hawklets have won six soccer state championships in school history.
None were more surprising than the title they earned last season. Rockhurst started the 2013 season only 7-8 before reeling off 15 straight wins and winning the Class 3 title.
If the Hawklets repeat as champions, it won’t come as any surprise.
Top Drawer Soccer has ranked the Hawklets as the second best team in Missouri, behind only Chaminade. Lee’s Summit West is fourth in the same poll.
“Our focus is to be the best in late November when it counts,” Rockhurst coach Chris Lawson said. “... It’s hard to gauge rankings. It can be distracting for most high school players. I tell our kids to focus on what we can control.”
Top Drawer Soccer also released a preseason All-America watch list. Lee’s Summit North goalkeeper Parker Johnson, Lee’s Summit West forward Tony Mok and Lee’s Summit midfielder Dalton Souder made the list.
After two straight top-five finishes at the Missouri Class 4 state meet — but no victories — Blue Springs senior Stephen Mugeche has one chance left for a gold medal.
He’s off to an optimistic start.
Mugeche won the season-opening Kearney Invitational at Jesse James Park over the weekend. He finished 19 seconds ahead of Kearney sophomore Clayton Adams. Blue Springs junior Cody Berry was third. Raytown senior Zack Penrod placed sixth.
Mugeche finished second to Marquette senior Noah Kauppila at last year’s state meet.