Taking a closer look at Frontenac softball coach Cassie Rhuems’ two state softball title runs, there are some notable similarities between both journeys.
As a seventh seed, the Raiders made school history in 2016 after defeating Haven 13-5 to win the Kansas Class 4A Division II softball championship, the first in school history. Three years later, the eighth-seeded Raiders made another historic run on the way to defeating Silver Lake 7-5 to win the school’s first Class 3A softball state championship.
“Once everything started gelling and everyone saw it all start coming together (later in the season), I think the kids just started to realize their potential,” Rhuems said of her team’s run to finish off the 2019 season. “We knew we weren’t the favorites, and that was OK. We also knew that once we beat Riverton in the regional championship, that it was probably one of the toughest regionals in the state. It really prepared us for the state tournament.
“After we earned that first win against the top seed, the kids’ confidence was through the roof, and they were relaxed. They didn’t let anything affect that, including the weather delaying our games.”
On the field, one of the more noticeable parallels between both championship games started and ended in the circle, literally.
The Raiders’ 2016 championship game was secured by a strong performance from then-senior Kennedi Fields, who earned a complete-game win after surrendering five runs, three earned, on eight hits against the Wildcats.
Against the Eagles in the Class 3A title game, it was Kennedi’s younger sister, Karma Fields, who led the Raiders to prominence in the circle. Fields also earned a complete-game win after allowing five runs, one earned, on nine hits, two walks and a strikeout.
The sisters also left their mark on their respective game at the plate, as Kennedi Fields finished with three hits and two runs scored against Haven, while Karma Fields provided the Raiders with a go-ahead RBI double in the fifth, and again had a run-scoring double in the sixth against Silver Lake.
“Both of them being in the circle, with each winning state championships, is pretty unheard of,” Rhuems said. “I think that is really cool. Kennedi came back from college to help support the kids, but she was a great asset to Karma as well. She was a strong reinforcement for her sister going into that state championship game.”
Madison Davis was also a common ingredient for both of the Raiders’ runs. As a freshman against Haven, Davis logged three hits, including a two-run home run, two RBI and two runs scored. Fast forward to her final game as a senior for Frontenac, Davis came up with a clutch RBI single in the sixth to push the Raiders’ lead to two runs.
“Madi did a great job being a leader for us this season,” Rhuems said. “A lot of the kids rallied behind her, knowing she was our only senior. She did a great job playing first base for us this year, and the kids really felt confident with her in the infield.”
Of course, the biggest similarity for Frontenac, and that’s in no way a correlation to her size, was the fact that Coach Rhuems was eight months pregnant during each of the Raiders’ title runs.
“When I let the girls know that I was expecting this time around, I told them, ‘You know the last time I was pregnant, we won a state title,’” Rhuems said with a laugh. “I told them I did my part, now, it was time for them to hold up their end. That had kind of been the running joke since December, when I told them.
“I am a pretty superstitious person, so it is comical with how many similarities there really were for that state title run (in 2016) and this state title run.”
While coaching the Raiders to the school’s first-ever championship in the program’s history in 2016, Rhuems was carrying her first child, Cruz. During the recent win against Silver Lake, Rhuems was carrying her second child, who is due in early July.
It goes without saying how difficult coaching is, but when you add in the later stages of pregnancy, it can be quite overwhelming. Rhuems wasn’t shy about praising her support staff, and how important they have been, particularly during her two pregnancies. From her husband, Jay, to her father, Francis Buche, who is also a member of the Frontenac softball coaching staff, it is clear Coach Rhuems has a lot of support in her corner.
“I lucked out in the husband category,” Rhuems said. “I am away a lot with coaching, and Jay will bring Cruz to the games. ... It takes a village, especially as a female coach. I am very thankful for Jay for giving me the opportunity to continue doing what I love to do.
“My dad kept the book for me when I started coaching 12 years ago, and about seven years ago, I talked him into being my assistant. He is a huge asset to our program. He is probably the most positive person I have ever met in my life. I may be stressed out at certain times about things and he just keeps me grounded and reminds me that it really isn’t that big of a deal. He really loves this team and these kids as much as I do, and I am thankful for every moment I get to spend with him.”
Now, with two pregnancies resulting in two state title runs, the question had to be asked: How many more kids is Coach Rhuems going to have? Surprisingly, that wasn't the first time she had heard that very question.
“It’s funny,” Rhuems said. “Now, all of the parents are thinking I need to be pregnant by next Spring. … It is special because I love being a mom, and (my players) are like my second family.
It is just really hard to throw batting practice when you are eight months pregnant.
“It will be fun to look back in 10 of 15 years when my kids are older, hopefully experiencing the same things, to show each of them how they were a part of our first state title runs.”