FRONTENAC — Frontenac Softball clinched their return to the state tournament over the weekend, punctuating their postseason run with a 5-4 walk-off win against Riverton.
The Raiders gained valuable experience last season, which featured many of their young players being inserted into larger roles.
“Last season our team was very young and inexperienced. We spent a lot of the season trying to figure out who belonged where. Coming into this season, already having a year of experience really helped give us confidence and comfort while being on the field.” said Junior Karma Fields.
This year, Fields is one of six juniors on the roster.
“We had a rebuilding year last season after losing 10 seniors the year before.” said Frontenac Head Coach Cassie Rhuems. “We were young and inexperienced. We were able to get kids some experience last season in positions they are playing this season, giving them the opportunity to learn the game a little more.”
“At the beginning of this season, we knew we wanted to end up on top as the state champs, but we also knew we had to stay focused and work hard throughout the whole season.” added Fields.
The Raiders were consistent throughout their 2019 campaign, starting with a two-game sweep over Fort Scott.
Frontenac suffered two-straight defeats only once this year, and their record never dipped below .500.
“I love the perseverance of this team. They have found ways to win games in which they were behind in. They have a lot of fun with each other, which creates a great atmosphere in practice and games.” said Rhuems.
Depth proved to be a valuable weapon for Frontenac this season. Heather Arnett led the Raiders in batting average, with a blistering .532.
Three Raiders eclipsed the .400 average mark, including this season’s lone senior, Madison Davis.
Davis, sporting a .487 batting average, along with three home runs and 36 RBIs, cherishes her role as a leader on the team.
“My job as the senior is to be there for my teammates,” said Davis. “Not to scream at them after mistakes, but to be there when their down. Every single person on this team can do anything they set their minds to, and as a senior my job is to help them believe that.”
Davis and Fields split starting pitching duties, with Fields earning a 11-4 record and a 2.38 ERA.
Davis was 6-2 on the mound, striking out 38 batters in 51.2 innings pitched.
Fields also proved to be a versatile offensive threat, batting a .494 average while leading the team in both homers (6) and RBIs (50).
“We had many players step up this year in important situations. People who may have shrunk under pressure last year, understood what the team needed from them and seized the moment to do something great.” said Fields.
Sophomore Morgen Hipfl batted a .348 and teammate Bailey Rhuems, who would send the Raiders back to the state tourney with her walk-off hit against the Rams in the regional finals, notched a .308 average.
“Big players make big plays in big moments.” said Davis. “When we need it the most, this team can produce and I think we’ve shown that throughout the season.
The regional title holds a different meaning for Davis, who as a freshman was a valuable piece on the Raiders team that won the state tournament just three seasons ago.
"Three years ago we won the state tournament and I can say I played a part in that. Getting back to state means a lot to me personally, because I was led by a great group of girls back then, and now I get the opportunity to be a leader on a team during a state run.” said Davis.
Frontenac(17-6) will open the Class 3A State Softball Tournament against Cheney High School on Thursday.
“I am so proud of our kids. I am proud of them for the improvements they made throughout the season, I am proud of the guts they showed in regionals, and I am proud of how they treat each other. They know what it takes to be a true team. They support each other, they push each other, and they have a great time together. This next week is going to be really great for our team, and I am looking forward to a successful tournament in Emporia.” said Rhuems.