Seniors get opportunity to shine in Firebirds’ 11-1 win over Lancers

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State senior Morgan Leslie (44) throws a pitch against Shawnee Mission East on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at FSHS.

Free State senior pitcher Morgan Leslie doesn’t cry much, but she came close to showing emotion when she noticed senior catcher Emma Stanwix tearing up just before the national anthem.

“I was like, ‘girl you are going to send me over before we even start,'” Leslie said.

Instead, Leslie was locked in for the Firebirds in the circle. She sat down the first three batters she faced, and was in the zone for much of the afternoon. Leslie was one of eight seniors to contribute to Free State’s 11-1 win over Shawnee Mission East Tuesday at FSHS on Senior Night.

The game ended after five innings due to a run-rule, capping off Free State’s first undefeated run through Sunflower League action. The Firebirds finished the year with an 18-2 record, including 12-0 in league play.

“This program is where it is at because of the seniors,” FSHS coach Lee Ice said. “You do it with your seniors and upperclassmen. Whether they play or not, they are great leaders.”

Perhaps nobody epitomizes the seniors’ willingness to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team than Leslie.

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State teammates celebrate after Kay Lee Richardson (46) hit a home run against Shawnee Mission East on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at FSHS.

At this time last year, Leslie had already won 10 games for FSHS. She pitched in the first postseason contest before turning the ball over to Tatum Clopton, an Oklahoma State commit, for the rest of the playoffs en route to the team’s first-ever state title.

This season, however, Leslie has pitched less than last spring with Clopton, now a sophomore, completely healthy. Leslie, who will play softball at Missouri Valley College next year, earned her first victory last week against Olathe North even though FSHS was down four players.

“She had one of the biggest games all year last week against Olathe North,” Ice said. “We went into the season, telling the seniors that there was competition. If our ultimate goal is to play at Rock Chalk Park (for the state tournament), then they have to understand it is not about them individually.”

But that hasn’t always been the case for Leslie. She has learned to accept more of a leadership role, even if her innings have been reduced.

“In the beginning, I didn’t have much of a team aspect in the game. At this point, I’m not playing a lot but I understand why,” Leslie said. “Clopton is so good and I love her so much. That’s where I have grown the most. My job is to cheer her on and keep the team together.”

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State senior Lauryn Jones (27) flicks the ball on the ground after a double play during a game against Shawnee Mission East on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at FSHS.

That’s really been the case for a lot seniors, which is why Tuesday was a good opportunity for the entire class to get involved in the team’s final win of the regular season. Leslie allowed one run off four hits and recorded five strikeouts.

Senior Lauryn Jones and Stanwix, who are both starters, each recorded a hit during a four-run outburst in the opening frame. Senior Taylor Burks delivered a two-run single in the fifth to put an impressive bookend on a mercy-rule victory.

Senior Annie Roszak tallied a single in the second. Senior Chloe Taylor reached base with a walk in the third, while senior Liliana Keathley recorded two walks in her two plate appearances. Senior Karsen Jacobson grounded out in her lone at-bat.

Freshman Kay Lee Richardson clubbed her eighth homer of the season with a two-run shot in the second, and she also drove in two runs off a double in the first. Sophomore Georgia Rea came through with a pair of singles and a triple. Sophomore Sara Roszak drove in two runs and notched three base knocks.

“That was a great opportunity,” Ice said. “The overall purpose was to win the ballgame. At the same time, (the seniors) need their time. Giving those kids the opportunity to get two or three at-bats at the end was pretty special for me.”

Regional assignments will be announced on Wednesday.


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