No one knows better than Pam Pine how meaningless seeds can be in the postseason.
"Anything can happen," said Pine, Free State High's softball coach. "Just look at the Jayhawks."
Pine was referring to Kansas University, a No. 6 seed, winning the Big 12 Conference tournament last weekend in Oklahoma City.
Now the high-flying Firebirds will face a No. 6 seed in their Class 6A sub-state opener, and it just happens to be crosstown rival Lawrence High.
Game time will be 3 p.m. at Two Rivers Youth Complex in Wichita.
The winner will play for the sub-state championship and a state tournament berth at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the 4:45 p.m. game between Wichita Heights (16-4) and Topeka High (3-17).
Free State (15-5) is enjoying the best softball season in the school's nine-year history. The Firebirds never had a winning season until last spring, when they compiled a 14-11 record and finished fourth in the Class 6A state tourney at Clinton Lake Softball Complex.
In the 2005 state meet, the Firebirds went in as the No. 6 seed and stunned No. 3 seed Wichita Northwest, 5-3, in the first round.
Now Free State is on the other side of the 3-6 pairing, and Pine is wary of Lawrence High even though the Lions have lost 11 games in a row and have a 6-14 record.
"It will be totally different playing them at a neutral site," Pine said.
Earlier in the spring, Free State swept a twinbill from the Lions at Holcom Complex, winning the first game, 3-2, with senior Summer Mulford in the circle and the second game, 5-2, with sophomore Catherine Smith on the mound.
"Free State has a good hitting team, and it will be a challenge," Lawrence coach Reenie Stogsdill said. "But we're looking at it like it's a new year and a new chance."
Lawrence High and Free State also met in the first round of the 6A playoffs last year at Washburn Rural, with the Firebirds holding on for a 4-3 victory when senior left-fielder Chloe Hall threw the potential tying run out at home plate.
Now Stogsdill hopes to finish the worst season in her 12 years as the Lions' coach on a positive note, and nothing would wipe out the bad taste more than a victory over their city rival.
In order to win, the Lions will need a solid pitching performance from pitcher Dequesne Sprow, who has battled periods of wildness this season.
"If we can get Dequesne not to walk too many," Stogsdill said, "we do have a good defensive team, and anything can happen."
Lawrence High and Free State were forced to make the three-hour bus trip to Wichita because of a quirk caused by Emporia slipping into Class 5A. In order to even the geographic brackets, the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. had to add Wichita Heights to the east.
Heights is a host school because it has the second-best record in the region. Washburn Rural (20-0) is the No. 1 seed and will be playing host to Leavenworth, Manhattan and Junction City today.