Reenie Stogsdill and Lee Ice know what’s on the line tonight when their teams meet at Free State High: city softball pride.
Lawrence High is 6-12, while Free State is 5-13, but that likely will be forgotten by the time the two squads hit the field at 6 p.m. It’s the Lions. It’s the Firebirds. In the city showdown, do records ever matter?
“I think our kids always put a little more on this game than other games,” LHS coach Stogsdill said.
“In terms of the rivalry, it’s not looked at as just another game,” FSHS coach Ice said. “That’d be lying. All the kids know each other. There’s a lot of energy on both sides.”
The two city teams enter tonight’s battle riding different waves of momentum.
Lawrence High has won four of its last six games. The Lions’ latest victory was easily their most impressive of the season. Lawrence held off Olathe East, 2-1, and handed the Hawks only their third loss all spring.
“We’re a better team than what our record shows,” Stogsdill said. “The kids are starting now to believe in themselves, and they’re playing with confidence.”
Free State, on the other hand, has dropped four of its last five games. The Firebirds have been highly competitive, though. FSHS had Olathe Northwest blanked through six innings Tuesday, but ultimately fell, 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader. O-Northwest is the top-ranked Sunflower League team this season at 17-1.
“We’ve been so close,” Ice said. “There’s three things in this game you have to have: pitching, defense and timely hitting. If you have one out of three, you have about a 30 percent chance of winning. If you have two out of three, it’s probably a 70 percent chance. If you have all three, there’s a good chance you’ll win. Our problem has been that we have not put the defensive part together like we’ve hoped.”
Tonight’s mound matchup will feature Lawrence High junior Lauren Massey against Free State senior Megan Smith, who earned a pair of victories in last season’s city showdown.
Free State swept LHS last year, 7-2 and 7-3, at Holcom Complex. With Lawrence High’s new softball facility available this season, the two teams decided to split the games this year. Today’s game is at Free State; Tuesday’s regular-season finale will take place at LHS.
“I really like the single game,” Ice said. “It’s something we want to do every year. You get the same excitement twice.”