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Morning Sun
  • Frontenac leads baseball/softball polls

  • Frontenac baseball and softball, Pittsburg baseball and Independence softball were chosen preseason favorites by the respective coaches of the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League and the Southeast Kansas League.

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  • Frontenac baseball and softball, Pittsburg baseball and Independence softball were chosen preseason favorites by the respective coaches of the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League and the Southeast Kansas League.
    Frontenac coaches Bill Sullivan and Cassie Buche were not surprised but new Pittsburg head coach Keith Matlock and Independence head coach Dale Reynolds both expressed bemusement mixed with gratitude.
    “As I was talking with Coach Russell (Cara Russell), I really have no idea,” Matlock said. “These polls come out and we’re at the top. It’s great and it’s a tribute to what the expectations are in Pittsburg. You guys are talking about pressure. I’m jumping into a brand new job, alright. We’re up top there. I think that’s a tribute to what Coach Wilbert (previous head coach Mike Wilbert) has done over the years.”
    “Coach Green (Labette County head softball coach Lori Green), I don’t know why you think you’re crazy,” Reynolds said. “I’m proud our girls have earned your respect to get the No. 1 ranking here but we’re really young. I have four seniors and only one played a lot of varsity ball. . . . A lot of good, young kids. We’re just so inexperienced and to be picked No. 1 is a privilege, a honor.”
    “We return eight of nine (starters),” Buche said. “We lost our shortstop (Danielle McBride). We have six seniors. Those six seniors have started since they’ve been freshmen and they’re eager to get back to that state title game and do a little more damage than we did a couple years ago.”
    “We return all nine starters from last year’s team,” Sullivan said. “We have eight seniors, one junior and we’ve got a handful of juniors who saw some playing time last year. We’ve got 34 guys out. . . . The kids are really excited about going. They’ve got a lot on their shoulders but sometimes that’s not a bad thing to put a little pressure on them and make them work hard.”
    Frontenac baseball won its first state baseball title in school history last year and return starters Bryce Burdette, Bryan Wade, Brett Macary, Blake Vail, Matt Standlee, Blake Barto, Ross Edge, Nick Zafuta and Gus Brunetti. The Raiders will be making a jump into Class 4A come regionals and state time.
    Frontenac softball won the CNC League title last year but fell short of a return to the state tournament with a regional loss to rival Colgan. The six seniors — Lindsey Gorham, Jennifer Long, Sam Bonner, Nayna Fields, Libby Warrick and Ashton Alex — have unfinished business remaining from the past couple seasons.
    Pittsburg baseball made a state tournament appearance last year in the final season of head coach Mike Wilbert. Gone are graduated pitchers Joe Wimmer and Broc Bennett but Spencer Bernhardt, Tanner Ellis, Nick Vacca and Anthony McNeely return with starting experience.
    Page 2 of 3 - Pittsburg softball was picked fifth in the SEK, despite returning several players — Andie Casper, Alaura Short, Kylie Wilber, Mercedes Vogel, Bethanne Elliott and Katy Short.
    “I actually feel like this is our first year that we’re not in rebuild mode,” Pittsburg head coach Mary Packard said. “We’ve been rebuilding, it feels like, for the past several years because of a couple of classes that had a lack of people that played. . . . We’re looking forward to the season. We’ve got girls that are excited. Again, I feel like we’re done rebuilding and it’s time to show up and beat our record from last year (8-13).”
    Pittsburg will have a new softball field.
    Colgan baseball, a perennial power, returns four starters — V.J. Piccini, Nate Grimaldi, Christian Cedeno and Colton Gilbert — from a regional runner-up.
    “Overall, we’re going to be really young,” Colgan head coach Mike Watt said. “Hopefully, it’s going to lead to some competitive practices as they try and figure out playing time amongst themselves.”
    Colgan softball returns several players from a state-qualifying team but one vital player graduated, Morgan Gilmore.
    “We return eight starters,” Colgan head coach Abby Farabi said. “One of them was a DH but the one that we graduated was our pitcher, our leading hitter. She did just about everything for us. We’ll be hurting there and we don’t have a lot of experience coming back on the mound but the kids are excited. We went to state last year and we upset a couple teams so they’re looking to get a little further this year and it’s nice that I don’t have to play my sister (Frontenac head coach Cassie Buche) to go to state this year.”
    Girard softball returns eight starters — including college signees Hope McLeod and Madison Smith — for new head coach Jim Vinze, who moved up from assistant to replace Jerry O’Rand, who had been head man since 2005 and whose Girard teams compiled a 156-21 record over eight seasons.
    Girard baseball features new head coach Jason Day, who abstained from filling out his coaches’ preseason ballot.
    “I will tell you that I am the asterisk,” Day said. “I didn’t feel like I knew anybody and I haven’t seen any of the teams play so I had no business voting. You guys probably know more about my team than I do.”
    Day said this is his first head coaching job after 14 years of various assistant jobs, including his last stop at Raymore-Peculiar (known as Ray-Pec) High School in Missouri.
    Southeast baseball and softball were each picked in similar positions.
    “We lost two seniors last year,” Southeast softball coach Mike Bowman said. “One (Shiloh Blockburger), my first baseman, is playing at Coffeyville but I return seven starters. We have five seniors that will be our team leaders. We have 19 girls out and the girls are excited about getting the season going.”
    Page 3 of 3 - “Last year, I had two seniors,” Southeast baseball coach David Dainty. “Obviously, those two seniors are gone. . . . I have seven seniors this year (Daniel Peak, Jason Reed, Josh Thompson, Bryan Horgan, Justin Galloway, Travis Trayer, Avi Sharma). These kids have been with me since I’ve been coaching at Southeast (three years). . . . I’m looking forward to a successful season at Southeast.”
    New assistant coaches in the area include former Girard standout Ashley Spencer at Labette County and former Girard standout Alysha Poteat at Frontenac, as well as Francis Buche, father of Cassie Buche and Abby Farabi, at Frontenac.
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