It will literally be state-championship atmosphere Thursday when McPherson High’s softball team opens its season at Augusta.
The two teams met in last year’s Class 4A Division I state championship game, with the Orioles taking an 11-5 decision. Now they’re both in AVCTL Division III, so the league title could very well be on the line when the teams hook up at 4:30 p.m.
MHS and Augusta both return a bevy of key players, so even though it’s the season’s opening day, the level of play could be higher than normal.
“We are ready to play this week and excited to open with Augusta as we have some unfinished business with them from last season,” MHS second-year coach Danica Fitzmorris said. “Even though they lost some key seniors from last year, they will continue to be a tough competitor. I think we will both be great offensive teams. In order to beat them, we will need to have an aggressive and error-free defense.”
The Bullpups lost only two starters to graduation, Marissa Axelson and Nicole Cheek. They return several All-Division III performers and some young additions could make the team as strong or even stronger than last year.
Madison Hoffman and Elle Schrag are returning pitchers, and Fitzmorris is high on freshmen Bailea Crist and Kenzie Goering to lend depth.
The cast is familiar, with Jasmine Wann behind the plate, Hannah Marshall at first, Gracy Feil at second, Chelsey Kerr at short and Stevie Stockham at third when Hoffman is pitching. Hoffman plays third if Schrag or one of the other pitchers is on the mound.
Brooke Schrag is the lone returning outfield starter, with Crist and Mayci James expected to join her. Stephanie Farney is the DH.
Wann, Marshall, Kerr, Hoffman and Feil are all expected to provide huge offensive numbers after earning league honors last year.
More on the team will be included in the Mid Kansas Sports Magazine, which is expected to be available on Monday.