Archive for Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sisterhood’ sparks SMN to softball hot streak

April 28, 2010

A season that began with question marks has wound up in a familiar place for the Shawnee Mission North softball team.

The Indians opened the season hoping to fill some major holes in the lineup after losing a strong senior class to graduation. They opened the year with a 4-4 record, but two weeks later they stand at 9-5 overall and 6-2 in the Sunflower League — good for third place in a league filled with powerhouse programs.

North coach Steve Collins said the team’s success stems from a dugout filled with players united in everything they do.

“What we’re looking at is a team that really works for one another,” Collins said. “The chemistry on the ball club is just amazing. I can’t recall a team that’s been more supportive of each other and really working hard for each other, and it really seems to spill over to the hitting, pitching and fielding. The camaraderie all around has been very good. What we have here is balance and chemistry.”

Some of that chemistry comes naturally. Collins is quick to point out that he has four sets of sisters on the team: Mary Pat and Barbara Specht, Katie and Cally Cowan, Katie and Anne Marie Fleming and Alyssa and MoNica Lee.

“We call it the sisterhood,” Collins said. “I think it’s a positive. They pull for each other and they work with each other. That sisterhood is a powerful force.”

North has scored 41 runs in the last six games and won five of them. The lone setback during that span was a 2-0 defeat to Olathe East. North swept Shawnee Mission South and Lawrence Free State and knocked off Olathe South, 5-1, during the winning streak.

Collins said the team’s offensive improvement boils down to players putting in the work to get better.

“A lot of times players will just go through the motions, but they have really dedicated themselves during practice,” he said. “Whether they’re hitting off the machine or seeing more live pitching, we’re really focusing on the hitting. That was one of our team goals was to improve our hitting, so they’ve really worked hard at it.”

While the North offense has been red-hot, Collins said the team also has benefited from having more reliable pitchers. Unlike last year when Mary Pat Specht threw almost every game, she now throws the first game of doubleheaders while MoNica Lee and Melissa Redick have split time throwing the second game. That has allowed North to utilize Specht’s glove on defense while also showing opposing batters different looks and speeds.

The Indians rolled into the postseason last year appearing poised to earn a trip to the state tournament, but a mistake-plagued first-round game brought their season to an early end. Collins said his players don’t want a repeat performance this year, and their attitude and work ethic has shown him that they expect to make their state tournament dreams a reality.

“It certainly came up when we did our team goal-setting that we want to make a run at state … we want to make it to state,” he said. “We feel that if we continue to improve and work hard and remain injury free, we’ll have a very good opportunity to get through regionals and get to state.”

North next plays at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday against Shawnee Mission East at the Shawnee Mission District Softball Complex. The Indians then play rival Shawnee Mission Northwest in a 10 a.m. Saturday doubleheader at the district complex.

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