Lawrence High softball coach Joe Dee Tarbutton raved about his infielders before the season. They’ve lived up to the billing.
With junior Morgan Byrn at third, sophomore Sophie Taylor at short, senior Marly Carmona at second and senior Kristen Gile at first, the infield has been one of the best in the Sunflower League at the plate and in the field.
Byrn owns a .544 batting average and leads the league with five triples and 25 RBI, while Gile is hitting .490 and is tied for the league lead with six doubles.
“I couldn’t have asked for anymore out of the infield,” Tarbutton said. “I still thoroughly believe we have the best infield in the conference. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Byrn, Carmona and Taylor all have experience playing shortstop, and though Byrn and Carmona have changed positions, there haven’t been many hiccups.
“We get along really well,” Taylor said. “We hang out and we’re friends so we play well together.”
“It’s great, and having three shortstops, it’s nice because we know what it’s like in that position,” added Byrn, a UMKC commit. “We kind of understand each other, feed off each other and help each other.”
The Lions (10-6) have already surpassed their win total from the last two years. A big reason for that is the infield play.
“I knew we’re all great infielders, and anywhere you put us in the infield, we’re going to work hard and compete and do our best,” Byrn said. “It doesn’t surprise me that we’re all doing well.”
FSHS baseball aces excel
Free State’s baseball team doesn’t feature many powerful arms, but the Firebirds have plenty of pitchers who can get the job done.
Senior starter Ryan Stagg has allowed just three earned runs over his last three starts, spanning 17 1/3 innings. He pitches to contact, allowing 13 hits in that span, but is able to avoid trouble by limiting walks and getting ground balls with runners on base.
Sophomore lefty Parker Tietjen has impressed during his limited time on varsity, never allowing more than three earned runs in his three varsity starts. He keeps hitters off-balance with a strong breaking ball and changeup.
“We say it all the time, ‘Hitting is timing and pitching is a disruption of timing,’” Free State coach Mike Hill said. “Our guys have had the ability to do that. Multiple pitches for strikes, down in the zone, I think that’s the key.”
If the Firebirds (10-6) have a lead, they will turn the ball over to junior closer Casey Hearnen, who can throw in the low-80s. Unlike Stagg and Tietjen, Hearnen can strike out a lot of batters and is a change-of-pace who hitters have struggled against.
Senior Ryan Cantrell, senior Cameron Pope and sophomore Trevor Munsch have also helped out Free State on the mound when they need extra arms, and Cantrell has allowed just three runs over his last eight innings.
“You need three components to be successful and that’s pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Hill said. “We’ve just been missing the timely hitting.”
LHS relay team sub-4
At the Kansas Relays, Lawrence High junior Jensen Edwards said the goal for the girls 4x400 relay team was to run under four minutes.
Leah Gabler, Marissa Pope, Edwards and Kyleigh Severa took first place at the Topeka Seaman Relays on Friday with a time of 3:59.88. They won a Class 6A state title with a time of 4:02.47 last year.
The public address announcer was egging them on, urging the crowd to cheer them to a sub-four minute finish, and there was a timer they could see while running.
“Truthfully I’ll be surprised if they don’t run faster,” LHS coach Jack Hood said. “They’re so talented. If you add all their (personal records) up, it’s a bunch under four (minutes).”
It was only the second meet this season where those four Lions ran together, and the new goal will likely be the school record of 3:55.29, which was set in 2007.
But is there extra pressure trying to defend a state title?
“I don’t think that’s an issue,” Hood said. “They don’t veer off task. If somebody’s going to take their title, they’re going to have to beat them. They’re not going to go down without a fight.”
This that ...
Lawrence High’s girls soccer game against Shawnee Mission Northwest has been moved up to 5 p.m. today because of the senior scholarship awards assembly.