by Alan Hoskins
Over her 14 years as head softball coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Kacy Tillery has always given special emphasis to the word community and the successful 2014 season was no different.
“Nine of our 10 starters were from Kansas, four of our five all-conference players were from Kansas and six of our seven all-district selections, something I’m very proud of,” Tillery said. “That’s the most in-staters of any team on the conference.”
In fact, only one non-Kansas player made a Lady Blue Devil squad that finished 32-15, hosted a first round playoff for the first time and advanced to the regional tourney in Topeka.
“We also swept Cowley County which has since advanced to the national tournament,” said Tillery, whose Blue Devils made quick work of the first round playoff by sweeping Neosho County in two games.
An all-time best team batting average of .386 and the strong pitching of freshman Leslie Ford carried the Blue Devils to their 32 wins. “A great hitting team and one of our better defensive teams,” Tillery said.
Leading the way were the co-most valuable players, third baseman Lacey Santiago and leftfielder Mierra Morrisette. A sophomore from Olathe who played high school softball at Notre Dame de Sion, Morrisette led the team in hitting (.494), runs batted in (50) and slugging percentage (.734) to earn first team All-Jayhawk and all-district honors . A two-year starter who did not have an error either season, Morrisette also led the KCKCC hitting last year with a .459 average.
“Probably the most unconventional athlete I’ve ever coached but with the best hand and eye coordination,” Tillery said. “She hit everything.”
The lone non-Kansas player from Molokai, Hawaii, Santiago hit. 464 with 14 stolen bases and 23 RBI from the leadoff position. A .426 hitter as a freshman, Santiago earned first team all-district honors this year and second team last year and second team All-Jayhawk both seasons. “The anchor of our infield, she had just six errors in 47 games,” Tillery said. Santiago was also one of three Blue Devils named to Who’s Who in American Community Colleges. The others were redshirts Sydnee Wilkinson and Sheyenne Espy.
Three other starters who earned either all-conference or all-district honors will also be lost, Hanna Barnhart, an All-Jayhawk first team shortstop from Bishop Ward who hit .400 with 26 RBI; second baseman Amanda Holroyd of Tonganoxie, who hit. .391 and was second in RBI with 45; and catcher Megan Dike of Lansing, who batted .388 with 21 runs batted in. Rightfielder Ashley Henington of Blue Valley Southwest, who hit .311 with 19 RBI, will also be lost.
“They are going to be very hard to replace on the field and the way they represented the college as athletes,” said Tillery, who admittedly shed a few tears when the Blue Devils were eliminated from the district tournament.
Two first team All-Region picks head the list of returnees, Ford, who was 22-8 with a 1.91 ERA, and centerfielder Justice Scales. A righthander from Garden City, Ford’s 186.2 innings were fourth most in the nation. She had eight shutouts and three no-hitters. A graduate of SM South, Scales was second in hitting with a .491 average. She also led in extra base hits (29) was third in RBI (41) and played errorlessly in anchoring the outfield.
The other top returnees are first baseman Laura Vanderheiden of Blue Valley Southwest, who .262 with 17 RBI; and pitcher Elizabeth Seimears of Ottawa, who had a 7-7 record with a .420 ERA.
To this group Tillery has already signed 10 recruits for 2014-15.
“It’s a good start and we have others coming in for visits in the next couple of weeks,” she said.