Since his daughter Ashley was playing 8U softball, Brain Wagner has coached her team. Now as the recent Lawrence Free State High School graduate's summer softball career is in its twilight, he hopes to help the Hummers take its success one step further than it did last year.
The Hummers suffered an early loss in last year's American Fastpitch Association's National B tournament that sent them to the losers' bracket. Because rain prematurely ended the tournament and the Hummers hopes of making a comeback, the Hummer has their goals cut out for them.
"We're going to stay in the winners bracket this year," he said.
Like many competive softball teams in this age group, each weekend this summer the Hummers will travel across the midwest to play in tournaments. With many of the players going to college in the fall and working summer jobs, the Hummers decided to not play in a league, but dedicate their time to only playing in tournaments.
Playing in these tournaments will allow them to rack up points to qualify for the National tournament which will be in Lawrence July 18 through July 24, but traveling costs and entry fees help to rack up bills. To defray these costs, the Hummers worked the concession stands at all of the Kansas University football and basketball games this year.
"The only thing the girls have to pay for is socks," Wagner said. The Hummers will stay around the area for many of the tournaments, but will travel to Fort Collins, Colo. in July to face out-of-town competition to prepare them for the National tournament.
Teams earn a berth to the National tournment by taking first place in a tournament or earning points by playing in enough tournaments. The Hummers expect to qualify for this year's national tournament based on the number of tournaments they are playing, but Wagner also expects his team to hold their own against the competition.
With the addition of Ashley Vice, a player from St. Joseph, Mo. who was a teammate of Hummers player Kelly Spence at Highland Community College this season, Jessica Baer and Brooke and Livi Abney, Wagner said the team should be strong defensively and on the mound.
Wagner said he will depend on the arms of Spence and Ashley, who pitched for Free State, which made the 6A State tournament, this season. Although the Hummers practiced for the first time last Thursday, he said the players' school spring ball seasons helped them to get ready for the summer.
"School ball warmed them up," Wagner said. "It got them going. Now they know what to expect."
The Hummers played in their first tournament this past weekend in Paola. They will travel to Blue Springs, Mo. next weekend before returning to play a tournament on their home turf in Lawrence on June 17.