One of Free State High softball coach Lee Ice’s biggest concerns heading into the Firebirds’ season opener was how his two sophomore pitchers would react.
As it turns out, that was among the least of his worries.
Although the two young pitchers yielded 26 hits in the opening doubleheader, the Firebirds’ seven errors on the night proved far more devastating.
“I’m disappointed,” Ice said after the Firebirds fell to Olathe South, 8-2 and 15-0, on Tuesday at the FSHS softball field. “I know they’re better than that. But one led to another led to another … ”
Case in point: the seventh inning of the opener.
Olathe South led just 2-0 heading into the seventh but took advantage of three FSHS errors to turn a squeaker into a laugher.
“It was a 2-0 game against one of the top five teams in the state,” Ice said. “It should have been 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, and instead it’s 8-0. Against good teams like that, you have to play fundamentally sound, and we didn’t.”
It seemed to carry over into the nightcap, when FSHS made seven errors and surrendered 12 hits, which led to a game shortened to five innings by run rule.
It was an abrupt ending to a late start for the Firebirds who began the season a week later than normal intentionally as Ice tried to accommodate for usually inclement early-season weather and conflicts with the school’s variety show, “Encore.”
“We had 21 practices,” Ice said. “I felt we were ready. But something came up missing. We kept it up for six innings, then something went away.”
Ice chalks some of it up to disparity in the teams’ experience. While O-South (2-0) returned nearly all of its players from the Sunflower League’s runner-up squad of a year ago and starts eight seniors, the Firebirds are young, especially in the circle.
Tuesday’s pitchers — Meredith Morris in the opener and Kaley Delg in Game Two — are sophomores who were slated for junior-varsity duty before being forced to play when a pair of junior pitchers opted not to play softball as seniors.
“I was worried about them coming in,” Ice said. “But I’m pleased with what they did today. The only problem was, we put them in position they had to throw too many pitches. They did a tremendous job. That was a big question mark for us coming in. Now the big question mark is, why can’t we catch it and throw it?”
Free State will travel Thursday to Leavenworth.