They’ve hung the banners, displayed the trophies and accepted all the accolades that come from a state-tournament season. Now the Lee’s Summit West softball team is ready to get back to work.
Last season was a memorable one for West, one that ended with the Titans’ first-ever trip to the state tournament. That 25-8 season remains fresh in their memories, but coach Eric Doane is making sure the Titans don’t dwell on it.
“For one practice we talked about getting back there,” Doane said. “And I’m not a big believer in talking about that a lot. I love the desire and the want-to, but it’s not something you go around talking about.”
Doane considers himself an old-school coach, and wants the Titans to do their talking on the field. With almost everybody back from last season, the Titans should definitely be heard.
West returns one of the Kansas City area’s top pitchers in Jordan Weber, a junior right-hander who compiled a 15-5 record last season with a 1.52 ERA and 175 strikeouts. After a stellar club season with Select Fastpitch, Doane said Weber is already looking more formidable than she did last season.
“She came into her own last year, but the confidence that she’s shown up with this year is off the charts,” Doane said. “She’s a better pitcher, a more confident kid. We’re overly excited. Every coach wants to have that kind of kid on the mound.”
Doane said some of that confidence may come from her decision after last season to make a verbal commitment to play softball at Missouri, thus putting an early end to all the pressure from recruiting. But there is, again, the motivation to repeat last year’s success.
“It gives us a lot more energy and strive to this year,” Weber said of last year’s state tournament run. “We want to do way better than we did last year and prove people we can do it.”
West has the personnel to make another run, and possibly improve last year’s third-place finish in the Class 4 state tournament. The Titans lost everybody up the middle – although returning catcher Maddie Harris did play most of the 2016 season behind the plate. Harris batted over .500 last year and led the team with seven home runs.
There are other proven and experienced hitters, too, like shortstop Carson Staponski, first baseman McKenzie McAtee, center fielder Kloee Arbuckle and second baseman Addison Besermin.
“All the kids coming back can play,” Doane said. “So we just needed to fit in about three pieces. We feel pretty good about that.”
Those pieces fell into place in West’s first two games in the season-opening Greater Kansas City Suburban Softball Invitational at Adair Park in Independence. The Titans opened pool play with a 10-1 six-inning victory over Smithville, with Staponski driving in four runs with two hits, McAtee getting three RBIs with three hits and Harris contributing a solo homer. Weber struck out 11 while giving up three hits and a walk.
They won their pool with a 5-3 victory over Odessa in which Besermin tripled and drove in three runs. West was supposed to meet Raymore-Peculiar in the first round of Gold Bracket play Monday, but rains pushed the tournament back a day.
“We just want to take one tournament at a time and see how well we keep doing,” Weber said. “If we do get to state, were going to do good things. I have a good feeling.”
Lee’s Summit also started out 2-0 and won its pool with two five-inning victories. beating Fort Osage 13-3 and Notre Dame de Sion 14-3. Even with the strong start, Lee’s Summit coach Stacey Moore said the Tigers are still trying to find their footing.
“Right now we’re still working on the puzzle,” Moore said. “Until we get everyone back and eligible, were just going to go out, build that chemistry and see what happens.”
Moore is still waiting on returning senior Julie Sexton, who hasn’t been in enough practices yet to eligible. Once she is, she’ll join center fielder Ashlynn Cook and left fielder Brielle Beavers as the Tigers’ three returning senior starters. Cook started out strong, hitting a homer and two triples with for RBIs against Fort Osage.
“We do have some experience and we have some strong senior leadership which is also helpful of course,” Moore said. “They’re really good kids, they’re coachable and they enjoy having a good time. So right now it’s a lot of fun.”
Lee’s Summit North also won its pool, beating Winnetonka 15-0 and Park Hill 8-0.