The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 22, 2013

Big bats, Gorham lead Frontenac to state tourney

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

FRONTENAC, Kan. — The Frontenac Raiders have been the definition of consistency at the plate. The softball team boasts a .353 team batting average and eight players are hitting better than .300.

Frontenac hopes that depth will be a factor in the school’s first trip to the Class 4A state tournament. The third-seeded Raiders (20-1) face No. 6 Pratt (17-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first round at the Bill Burke Complex in Salina.

“There’s a different hero in every game,” Frontenac coach Cassie Buche said. “That’s something you don’t come across very often on a team. It happened in the regional championship. I think our 3-4-5 hitters were (hitless) on the night and Ashton (Alex), our little 2-hole slapper, comes up and gets our only RBI of the game.”

Senior Jennifer Long leads the Raiders with a .437 average. Juniors Ryleigh McCartney and Rachel Amershek follow close behind at .429 and .424, respectively. Sam Bonner, Nayna Fields, Haley Wilson, Lindsey Gorham and Alex are above .300.

“It’s awesome to have nine hitters that you all can rely on,” Alex said. “We all go up there knowing we can hit. We believe in ourselves and we believe in our teammates.”

Frontenac also has plenty of confidence in Gorham. The all-state pitcher is 18-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 20 appearances this season.

“I don’t know if I’ll have another Lindsey,” Buche said. “She doesn’t have the velocity of a lot of kids in the circle, but her mind is so far beyond everyone else’s. She understands what we’re trying to do with hitters.

“It doesn’t matter what she’s doing, she’s going to give you 110 percent ... She wants the ball. She loves the pressure.”

Frontenac plays strong defense behind Gorham with a .942 fielding percentage.

“I think our greatest strength is our defense,” Fields said. “Lindsay is our star pitcher and our defense is always backing her up.”

The Raiders face a perennial 4A contender in Pratt. The Greenbacks have reached the state tournament in each of the past three seasons.

Pratt is led by all-state pitcher Brittnee Hill. The lefty will give the Raiders a different look at the plate.

“We haven’t seen any (lefties) this year,” Buche said. “The break is opposite. But they’ve spent so much time in the summer playing ball that they’ve seen some tremendous softball clubs. It’s a little different, but they’ve seen it before.”

Frontenac and Rock Creek — the two smallest schools in 4A — are both in the state tournament. The Raiders are enjoying the underdog role.

“It means a lot because people always underestimate small schools,” Bonner said. “I know our team has a lot of potential.”

A 3A team for many years, the Raiders hope to capture their first state championship in 4A.

Led by six seniors — Gorham, Libby Warrick, Alex, Bonner, Fields and Long — Buche said this team has a chance to do so.

“I don’t know a group more deserving than these kids,” Buche said. “I can’t say enough great things about my seniors ... They’re totally awesome kids. They’ve shown the younger kids how to be leaders.”