James Brown traveled way back in time to find the proper analogy for what his Raymore-Peculiar softball team will try to do this season with Callie Martin graduated and gone.
For three years Martin was one of the top players in the state and the fire for Ray-Pec’s offense. She’s off to Missouri now, and Brown compared the Panthers’ situation to the one then-Raytown High basketball coach Mark Scanlon faced when future NBA star and coach Tyronn Lue departed in the early 1990s.
“He said, ‘You don’t replace Tyronn; you absorb the loss and move on’” Brown said. “That’s where we’re at with Callie.”
Brown isn’t expecting one player to replace Martin’s .577 batting average, .620 on-base percentage, 13 home runs and 40 RBIs from her senior year. That’s going to take a committee. And with practically everybody back from last season but Martin, Brown is optimistic about forming a committee that could come close to those numbers.
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“The younger kids have gotten better, but still you’re not going to fill Callie’s gap,” Brown said. “We’re hoping some of the returning starters we had last year can get a little bit better maybe collectively we can make some of those numbers up.”
Brown will be looking for outfielder Shelby Martinez, a second team all-region selection last year, to be a key part of the Panthers’ offense. Shortstop Morgan Sharp is also expected to contribute, as are outfielder Peyton Hobbs and pitcher Aubrey Brown.
Aubrey Brown will share time in the circle with fellow sophomore Camryn Stickel, who threw 80 percent of the Panthers’ innings last season. Senior Marti Hamerle will also get some innings after finishing strong last season.
“We’re going to lean pretty heavy on Cameron and Aubrey in the circle,” Brown said. “They’re three very different pitchers so they kind of feed well off of each other with what they can do.”
Ray-Pec’s offense-by-committee had mixed results in its opening game in the Greater Kansas City Suburban Softball Invitational at Adair Park in Independence. The Panthers beat Pleasant Hill 12-1 and Raytown 17-0 to win their pool and advance to the championship Gold Bracket. But in bracket play on Tuesday, the Panthers fell to Lee’s Summit West 4-1 and Blue Springs South 5-0 to land in the seventh-place game. Lee’s Summit West and Blue Springs South both reached the Class 4 state tournament last season.
Harrisonville is trying to bounce back from a 3-20 season, started out with losses to Blue Springs South 14-0 and Liberty 13-5 before catching fire in the Bronze Bracket. After routing Notre Dame de Sion 12-1 in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats advanced to the bracket final with a 13-11 walkoff victory over Odessa. Kylee Bohle delivered the winning run for the Wildcats with a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We were young in all the wrong places last year, Harrisonville coach Dave Hix said. “We’re a lot better, more experienced.”
Harrisonville has seven seniors this season, six of whom are starters. That group includes center fielder Bohle a four-year starter, left fielder Bethany Cox, third baseman/outfielder Anna Saffels, shortstop Mara Davis and second-baseman Mallory Kimbell. Makenzi Lockhart will also see action in the outfield.
Harrisonville also returns starting pitcher Addison Sousley and the Wildcats have added depth in the circle with Hannah Wilson and freshman Lucy Shopper. Returning starter Abbie Maynard is one of three catchers on the squad.
“We don’t try to make our goals too lofty,” Hix said. “These girls want to go to districts; they want to make a run. But we’re not talking about that now. We’re talking about this game on this day.”
Pleasant Hill bounced back from its loss to Ray-Pec to rout Raytown 15-0 and advance to the Silver Bracket. After losing to Smithville in the quarterfinals, the Chicks routed Fort Osage 11-0 and made it to the fifth-place game.
Pleasant Hill has six starters back from last season’s 18-9 team, including third baseman/outfielder Lauren Redwine and second baseman Sayler Todd. But the Chicks are breaking in a new starting pitcher-catcher combo in Aspen Yance and Mariah Thompson. Yance, who made some starts last season, has been hampered by injuries.
“She’s not doing so hot right now because she’s injured, but we’re getting through,” Pleasant Hill coach Christy Reeves said. “And I think that once she’s healthy and everybody’s healthy, I think we’re going to be good.”
Belton, which must replace All-State pitcher Madison Hunsaker, made the Silver Bracket after splitting its pool play games. After falling to Oak Grove 23-2, the Pirates bounced back to beat Oak Park 5-3.