Frontenac High School’s second softball state championship was a long time coming.
And that was just during the weekend, not the time since a Class 4A Division II title in 2016.
The Raiders’ first two games in the 3A tournament in Emporia came on time — 6-0 over top-seeded Cheney last Thursday and 3-0 over fifth-seeded St. Mary’s on Friday in the first semifinal game.
But the second semifinal was halted by lightning, and a weekend of waiting began for the Raiders.
“We were waiting around on the Silver Lake-Holton game,” Frontenac coach Cassie Rhuems said. “Lightning delayed it three or four times, and then they had us evacuate the facility (Trusler Sports Complex). We found some hotel rooms because they weren’t going to make a call until 5 o’clock what we were going to do. Then we had a tornado warning, so we were taking shelter in the first-floor bathrooms of the hotel. That went on for a good hour.
“We stayed the night, and they had already canceled the game (for Saturday). So we loaded up, came home, got off the bus and went out and practiced at Pittsburg State. We went back to school the next day, got on the bus at 8 o’clock to find out they had canceled the games for the day. So we went back up that evening to hit in our indoor facility. ... That was Sunday, I guess. On Monday, we got on the bus at 8 o’clock to find out they had canceled the game until 5 o’clock. We met at 1 to hit at our indoor facility before we left, took off about 1:45 to Lawrence.”
But all the wait was worth it for the Raiders. After Silver Lake completed its 5-3 semifinal victory, Frontenac got to play for the first time in more than 72 hours and defeated Silver Lake 7-5 to earn the state crown.
The Raiders (20-6) entered the tournament with the worst record, but they ended it with the best reward.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded. You have to beat everybody there to win it anyway,” Rhuems said. “It was pretty cool. We knocked off the 1 seed the first day, and I think it relaxed the kids a little bit and gave them some confidence, some momentum. They were able to just keep on truckin’.”
And leading the cheers during the tournament was a quite-animated and demonstrative Rhuems from the third-base coach’s box.
“I don’t do much, do I,” she said with a laugh. “You know, you can’t turn it on and turn it off when you do what I do. I love the game, and I love these kids. When they do something great or I watch them seize the moment of success, I just get really excited for them. Eight months pregnant or not, I’m still going to react the same way.”
The Raiders have only one senior (first baseman Madison Davis), and the young team improved as the season progressed.
“Early on in the year we made a lot of errors and some mistakes due to the lack of experience,” Rheums said. “We realized that every day that we were at practice, the goal was to be a little better than they were the day before. They took a ton of reps at each position they played, and we really took advantage of the new indoor facility that we have. From Day 1 to the end of the season, the growth of the kids both mentally and skill-wise was totally amazing.”
The play also improved when Karma Fields became the No. 1 pitcher.
“I know Karma would rather be in the outfield, but about midway through the season, I realized that she was going to be our No. 1 in the circle,” Rhuems said. “And she rose to the challenge. And other players were willing to change positions for the good of the team.”
The remainder of the Raiders’ starters: shortstop Heather Arnett, right fielder Bri Ginavan, third baseman Raven Warren, second baseman Bailey Rhuems, center fielder Jayden Wilderman, left fielder Morgan Hipfl and designated player Emma Jessip for catcher Kate Walrod.
The Raiders had to play a different style of softball to win this title.
“This one feels pretty awesome because with this group of kids, it took a little bit from everybody,” Rhuems said. “We didn’t have the offensive caliber of kids like we did a few years ago. We didn’t hit as many home runs. We didn’t have the power-hitting that that we had three years ago. It was sweet watching these kids execute the short game, steal bases and create situational things to score runs in order to win the tournament.”