Karma Fields and the Frontenac Raiders were still celebrating a thrilling 42-40 victory over Jefferson West in the quarterfinals of the Kansas Class 3A state girls basketball tournament on Thursday, March 12 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena when bad news arrived.
Only minutes after the Raiders (22-2) secured a spot in the semifinals for the first time since 2014, the team learned the Kansas State High School Activities Association had canceled the remainder of the state tourney due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Just like that, Fields and her fellow seniors came to a realization — the dream of capturing a state championship was all over.
“It was really hard,” Fields said. “It was heartbreaking. We were all on such a high after winning our first state game in overtime. Then 5-10 minutes later, my dad (Frontenac coach Scott Fields) called us in and told us that they canceled the tournament. We all broke down.”
Six days later, another heartbreaking moment struck Fields, a three-sport standout at Frontenac.
On March 18, KSHSAA canceled all spring competitions for the rest of the school year, wiping out Fields’ senior year of softball.
The decision by KSHSAA to call off spring sports came a day after Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced that all of the state’s school districts would close through May 29 because of COVID-19.
“We were all really upset,” said Fields, last year’s Joplin Globe Spring Softball Athlete of the Year. “A lot of the seniors met so we could just be together. Coach (Cassie) Rhuems came over, and we all just tried to cheer each other up.”
Fields led Frontenac to the Class 3A state softball championship last spring.
As a junior, the right-handed Fields tossed 109 1/3 innings, going 14-4 in the circle with a 2.05 ERA.
At the plate, Fields hit .484 with a .519 on-base percentage and a .905 slugging percentage. She compiled 46 hits, 36 runs scored, seven home runs and 56 RBI.
Fields was the winning pitcher in all three games of last year’s state tournament, hurling 22 consecutive scoreless innings along the way. She tossed shutouts in her first two outings.
In the title game, a 7-5 win over Silver Lake, Fields drove in three runs and hit a pair of doubles.
The Raiders returned a solid core from last year’s championship squad this spring, and Fields acknowledged the team had its expectations set extremely high.
“We had huge goals,” Fields said. “Back-to-back state champs was what we wanted to do. We knew it would be difficult because the CNC League is so competitive. But we were all willing to work hard to try to reach that goal.”
Since the season came to an abrupt end, being unable to practice and compete on the field with her teammates and coaches has been difficult to deal with, Fields said.
“I’m missing everything,” she said. “I miss seeing my friends every day, and having fun. I miss being out on the field in great weather. I miss doing something we all love.”
Fields hopes to play softball at the next level, but she hasn’t finalized her future plans just yet. Of course, if Fields had a senior season, she would have been able to impress more college coaches with her play on the diamond.
“I hope to play college softball, but I haven’t made my decision yet,” Fields said. “I’m out here practicing every day when I can. Hopefully everything will work out okay.”
Fields, who stood out in volleyball, basketball and softball, has recently been forced to accept the fact that her prep career has concluded early due to a worldwide pandemic.
“I’ll always remember that we accomplished some pretty great things in all three sports,” Fields said, noting state berths in each sport. “My senior year will always stick with me because of how crazy it’s been. I just wish we would have been able to finish it.”