It's been a bumpy ride for the city high school softball teams this season. The good news is, they're both winning games.
The bad news? They're both losing some games, too.
Neither Lawrence High nor Free State has strayed far from the .500 mark heading into today's city showdown softball doubleheader. The Lions and Firebirds will clash starting at 4:15 p.m. today at Holcom Sports Complex.
The first game will be shown on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 starting at 10:30 tonight.
For the most part, the season has been a steady win-one-lose-one campaign for Free State, but the Firebirds still are enjoying their best season in school history, at 9-7 overall and 5-4 in the Sunflower League. They've already surpassed their season-best win total by two, with four regular-season games and postseason remaining.
"I'm pleasantly pleased with the way we've come out and improved on our winning percentage," FSHS coach Pam Pine said. "The games that we've won, we've won with every exhausting effort. It's never been easy."
Meanwhile, Lawrence (5-7, 4-3) has dealt with adversity this season, leading to a roller coaster of wins and losses. A five-game losing streak at the start of the season seemed to be the dip, but the Lions have won four of their last six, and are feeling better about themselves at just the right time.
"I think we've had our ups and downs this year," LHS coach Reenie Stogsdill said. "We've had some tough games to start out with. I think now we're at a point in our season where we're going to find out if we're going up or down."
A potential season-ending injury to standout catcher Jennifer Narcomey has hindered things even more, but the Lions still have the talent to right the early-season wrongs. Senior Danielle Huff has provided much-needed offense, while junior Whitney Juneau has enjoyed a solid season both pitching and hitting.
Juneau could be the key for the Lions today.
"Pitching is going to be very important," Stogsdill said. "If we can keep it to a low-scoring game, I think we'll have a chance."
Free State, though, will be no pushover. Led by junior Jamie Stanclift at shortstop, and with junior Ashley Wagner assuming most of the first-game pitching duties this season, the Firebirds have enjoyed success even they're not use to. A victory over the Lions, who lead the all-time series 9-3, would add to it even more.
Pine said the Firebirds are hungry for a big day today, even if they don't act like it.
"This group of girls is pretty laid back," Pine said. "They play with the same emotion whether they win or lose. They have good composure for as young of a team as they are."