The parallels between the Staley and Liberty North high school softball teams stem from their origins. The programs are in their relative infancy, each of them less than a decade old.
And thus a recent string of success — including 23-win season for both teams in 2015 — has led to a series of program milestones.
Another one could be on the horizon — but for only one of them.
Liberty North, 23-5, and Staley, 23-6, will play in the Missouri Class 4 sectional playoffs at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Liberty North. The winner will advance to the state quarterfinals, where it will meet either Belton or two-time defending state-champion Lee’s Summit.
A berth to the Final Four would be on the line — and that would be another program-first for either Liberty North or Staley.
“We understand that every game from here on out will be a tough game versus a talented opponent,” Liberty North coach Brett Kisker said. “To have any chance at success, we need to remain mentally focused, play hard but within our abilities and trust each other to get the job done.”
Senior pitcher Olivia Prather has led the Eagles to the sectional round. She is 18-4 this season with a 1.07 earned run average. She has also starred at the plate, where she has a .549 batting average to go along with 28 RBI.
But Staley is 2-0 against Liberty North this season.
Prather will match up against a potent Staley lineup that averages 8 runs per game. Jordan Jenkins has provided the top power threat with six home runs, 16 doubles and one triple this season in only 93 at-bats. Lindsey Gilbert (.492) and Abby Klein (.480) are hitting for high averages.
Staley ace Alle Pattillo is 17-3 with a 1.25 earned run average.
“Our team unity has been incredibly strong. We have really jelled,” Staley coach Jairus Tapp said.
“(And) our pitching and defense are really strong. We have a chance to win because our pitchers and defense do such an incredible job making the routine plays.”
Smithville, 22-6, will play in the Class 3 sectional round against St. Joseph Lafayette at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Smithville High School. The Warriors won their second district championship in three seasons when they defeated Platte County 5-2 on Saturday.
The Liberty High School girls tennis program has provided a constant fixture in the Missouri Class 2 state doubles tournament. In fact, over the past 12 seasons, the Blue Jays have been represented in the tournament all but once.
Junior Alex Rogers and sophomore Riley Kelley will add their names to that list Friday, when they compete in the Missouri Class 2 state event at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. In their first season playing together, the duo is 24-8 this season.
Two more area players will compete in the Class 2 singles bracket. Staley junior Natalie Thimgan became the first player in school history to qualify for the state singles tournament a year after she competed in the doubles bracket. Thimgan is 19-3 this season and dropped only two games across six sets to win the district tournament.
Park Hill South’s Stephanie Boulenger also qualified for state, and she compiled a 13-6 record this season, including a Suburban Red Conference championship.