FSHS, LHS expect battle in city softball showdown

Free State High’s softball team has dominated in the City Showdown over the past two seasons, winning all four games against Lawrence High.

Nobody expects a sweep to be easy this year.

The two schools will play each other twice this week, starting at 5 p.m. today at LHS.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for their kids and their new coach over there,” FSHS coach Lee Ice said. “They’ve come a long ways.”

The Lions (10-6) have surpassed their win total from either of the last two years and a big reason is their two pitchers, juniors Megan Sumonja and Jolona Shield, who have contrasting styles in the circle.

Sumonja, a right-hander, has struck out 49 batters in 50 2/3 innings with a 3.18 ERA. Shield is a lefty who pitches to contact and only has 15 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings pitched.

“They’re doing well,” first-year LHS coach Joe Dee Tarbutton said. “We’re working more on hitting their spots just a little bit more consistently. Their offspeed is working well for both of them, and we’re working a little bit with rise balls. The biggest thing now is consistency.”

Shield, who has a .438 batting average, is still adjusting to pitching for the first time in her high school career. She has been efficient, posting a 6-2 record and only 14 walks.

“My ball has a lot of movement on it, so they’re mainly pop flies and ground balls,” Shield said. “I just try to get outs.”

The Firebirds (10-8) have their own combination of pitchers, seniors Meredith Morris and Kaley Delg, who have dominated for the past three seasons.

Though neither Morris or Delg will strike a lot of hitters out, they’ve been effective and own 5-4 records this year.

“They’ve done exactly what I’ve thought they’d do,” Ice said. “They pitch to contact. They put the ball in play. I think we’ve walked less than 13 people all year.”

Morris and Delg have similar styles, so they can help each other when preparing for hitters. The difference for hitters is their release points, and Morris throws with a little bit more speed.

“We really work on hitting the corners,” said Delg, an Otero (Colo.) Junior College signee. “That’s what we need to focus on when pitching to contact. You have to hit the corners, and you really have to trust your defense to help you out.”

Errors have plagued the Firebirds at times this year, but these two games will be important for seeding at regionals and, of course, feature plenty of bragging rights.

“I get hyped,” Shield said about facing Free State. “I don’t get nervous. I just get really excited.”

Morris added: “I’m very excited. It’s our last LHS (games), so obviously I want to go out and put everything on the field. … I want to make the last couple of high school games really count and use that as momentum into sub-state.”