Archive for Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Woodling: Twins lift Firebirds, take two

May 15, 2007

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Lest we forget, Free State High rollicked to the best football season in its 10 years of existence last fall.

Now, within the same school year, Free State High is frolicking to the best softball season in the school's relative infancy.

Could there be a common denominator?

You bet there is. Twins.

Look-alike senior siblings Ryan and Brian Murphy were the catalysts, I'm sure you remember, for the Firebirds' 11-1 football team last fall, Ryan quarterbacking and Brian carrying the mail.

Then there is the softball team. Coach Pam Pine's team has captured the school's first Sunflower League title, owns an all-time school-best 16-3 record going into today's Class 6A sub-state and :

First, I have to mention something I said to Kansas University softball coach Tracy Bunge seven or eight years ago. Bunge had two sets of twins on her roster around the turn of the century - Shelly and Christi Musser and Kelly and Katie Campbell - and I remarked to Bunge that I could live another 100 years and never see two sets of twins on a softball team again.

Yeah, well, that just goes to show you.

Free State High's softball team has two sets of twins. Moreover, Livi and Brooke Abney, and Maggie and Rosie Hull all are starters for the Firebirds, whereas only the Mussers, both outfielders, were regulars on those KU softball teams.

The Abneys, both seniors, are three-year starters - Livi at second base and Brooke at first base. Yet, unlike the Murphys, they are fraternal twins. Brooke, for instance, is about two inches taller than Livi, and, facially, they could pass for sisters, but certainly not twins.

Just as Ryan Murphy has a slight edge over brother Brian in all-around football aptitude, Livi is the better of the Abney twins when it comes to softball skills. Darned if I can tell, however, the difference between the Hulls.

Both of the Hulls are left-handed, both can run and both can hit. One plays left - I forget which one - and the other patrols right. According to Pine, Maggie has the edge in upper-body strength, perhaps the reason her batting average is .492 and Rosie's is only .350.

With the Abneys and Hulls - both played as freshmen last year - returning from the 2006 Sunflower League third-place team along with seniors Allie Hock at catcher and Aleese Kopf and Hannah Somers in the outfield, the Firebirds loomed as a potential challenger for the league title.

However, when Somers opted to transfer to Lawrence High for her senior year, the Firebirds' stock dipped. Nevertheless, while Somers has sparkled as the Lions' leadoff hitter this spring, it's clear now the Firebirds had no difficulty picking up the slack, thanks in large part to three pairs of sisters.

Yes, the Firebirds boast still another pair of siblings in pitchers Catherine Smith, a junior, and Megan Smith, a freshman. Now get this: Megan Smith has an identical twin sister, and Emily Smith played on the Firebirds' junior varsity squad this spring.

So the Firebirds came that close to having THREE sets of twins this spring. Close doesn't count, though, and I'll bet I could live another 100 years and never see three sets of twins on a softball roster.

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