Blue Devil softball optimism built around solid pitching

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

If pitching is indeed the key ingredient for softball success, Kansas City Kansas Community College should be in good shape for the 2021 season.

“As a staff, it’s one of the best I’ve had in the last decade,” veteran Blue Devil coach Lana Ross said.

The Blue Devils are starting the season with six home doubleheaders including twin bills with Marshalltown Saturday and No. 9-ranked Kirkwood Sunday.

The five-member pitching staff is made up of two veterans, Lansing’s Bradi Basler and New Zealander Nerida Elson, and three newcomers, Breanna Droge of Hayden Catholic, Sammi Reynolds of Tonganoxie and Reagan Marsh of McLouth. Basler compiled a 4-4 record in nine starts in last spring’s COVID shortened season. She struck out 59 and walked 20 in 43 innings. The lone lefthander on the staff, Elson was 0-1 in five appearances.

Basler and Drogge give the Blue Devils two No. 1 hurlers from which to choose.

“It’s a toss-up,” Ross said. “Both have very good control of all their pitches and both have great command of their change-ups.” Elson will get the third starting assignment with Reynolds and Marsh ticketed for the all-important relief job. “We taught Elson the screwball in the off-season and she worked hard on her change up,” says Ross. “Reynolds is a primary rise ball pitcher and ideal for relief.”

Offensively and defensively, the Blue Devils will be led by the three “supersophs,” three players who will be playing their third season – outfielders Alexis Rymer of Piper and Devin Purcell of Eudora and third baseman Alaina Howe, also of Eudora.

A rightfielder, Rymer hit .337 and drove in 40 runs as a freshman and then batted a robust .452 last year with a .903 slugging percentage while Purcell has started every game in center the last two seasons, hitting .354 as a freshman and .347 last spring. Both are also outstanding defensively. Rymer has yet to make an error and Purcell has just one in two seasons. A starter at both third and second base, Howe has hit .230 and .235 in her two years.

Howe and second baseman Madison Pope of McLouth will provide experience in the infield where they’ll be joined by Baker transfer Hannah Maurer of Blue Valley Southwest at first base and Savannah Maynard of Blue Springs via Vermilion, Ohio, at shortstop. Alyssa Seichepine of Leavenworth will also get playing time at second while two other infielders, Haley Masisak of Lansing and Meadow Wyatt of Sparks, Nevada, have yet to be cleared medically.

“Defensively, Pope is very good and such a good leader,” Ross said. “Maurer is also very good defensively with great power at the plate. Maynard will be our leadoff hitter. She consistently gets the ball in play and gets on base and will also allow us to move Purcell back to second in the batting order.”

Freshman Lindsey Gettle of Pleasant Hope gets the edge over veteran Alexander Schafer of Lexington, Oklahoma, and freshman Jenna Daugherty of Olathe Northwest for the starting catching position while New Zealander Georgia Faunt has not been cleared medically.

“Gettle receives well and has a good arm to second base,” Ross said.

Lansing’s Leah Seichepine, who led the Blue Devils in hitting with a .462 average last spring, will join Purcell and Rymer in the outfield. She’ll be backed by a former Lansing teammate, freshman Shannon Jessup.

“Offensively, we’re about 80 percent where we want to be,” said Ross, who is again assisted by Jenn Strohman. “We’ve got great speed and power but we didn’t see any other teams in the fall; we just faced each other.”

As usual, the Blue Devils will face a tough schedule starting with Jayhawk Conference play against No. 6-ranked and No. 7 Johnson County. In addition to No. 9 Kirkwood, KCKCC also plays two Division I teams, Southeastern Iowa and Mineral Area.

Kansas City Kansas Community College

2021 Softball Schedule

Feb. 25 Ottawa JV, Home 1-3 p.m.
Feb. 27 Marshalltown, Home 1-3 p.m.
Feb. 28 Kirkwood, Home 1-3 p.m.
March 6 Central Nebraska, Home 1-3 p.m.
March 7 Southwestern Iowa 1-3 p.m.
March 9 Ellsworth, Home 1-3 p.m.
Crowder Bash
March 12 Southeastern Iowa 4 p.m.
March 12 Mineral Area 6 p.m.
March 15 North Dakota Science, Home 1-3 p.m.
March 18 Fort Scott*, Home 1-3 p.m.

March 20 Labette*, Away 1-3 p.m.
March 24 Southeast Nebraska, Home 1-3 p.m.
March 27 Cowley College*, Away 1-3 p.m.

March 30 Coffeyville*, Home 2-4 p.m.
April 1 Hesston*, Away 4-6 p.m.

April 3 Metropolitan, Home noon-2 p.m.

April 6 Crowder, Home 2-4 p.m.

April 8 Allen County*, Home 2-4 p.m.
April 10 Johnson County*, Away noon-2 p.m.

April 15 Fort Scott*, Away 2-4 p.m.
April 17 Labette*, Home 2-4 p.m.

April 20 Crowder, Away 2-4 p.m.

April 22 Cloud County*, Away 2-4 p.m.
April 24 Neosho County*, Away noon-2 p.m.

April 26 Southwestern Iowa, Home 2-4 p.m.

April 29 Highland*, Away 2-4 p.m.
May 6 Allen County*, Away 1-3 p.m.

May 8 Johnson County*, Home noon-2 p.m.
* Jayhawk Conference doubleheader

Trailing 8-0, Blue Devils rally for 16-8 in split with Ellsworth

Freshman Bradi Basler blasted a 3-run home run that broke an 8-8 tie and propelled KCKCC to a 16-8 win over Ellsworth Wednesday. Basler also doubled twice and drove in five runs but was the losing pitcher in a 6-2 inning second game loss. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
Freshman Leah Seichepine was safe by an eyelash on a bunt single in KCKCC’s four-run sixth inning that closed out a 16-8 win over Ellsworth Wednesday, However, the Panthers broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh for a 6-2 nightcap win. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College staged its biggest comeback of the softball season Wednesday,

Spotting Ellsworth an 8-0 lead in the first inning, the Blue Devils scored 11 runs in the final three innings for a 16-8 win. However, it was Ellsworth that rallied in the nightcap for a 6-2 win.

The split left the Blue Devils 7-7 heading into a week of the unknown because of the coronavirus. Rain forced a doubleheader with Fort Scott scheduled for Thursday to be postponed until March 25 and a weekend trip to the Crowder Tournament slated for Fayetteville, Arkansas, was canceled.

Next up is a scheduled home doubleheader Tuesday against North Dakota College of Science at 1-3 p.m. although the addition of home games over the weekend has not been ruled out.

Outstanding relief pitching by sophomore Shay Grosstephan and a tie-breaking 3-run home run by freshman Bradi Basler propelled the Blue Devils to their 16-8 win.

Grosstephan (3-2) came on with two out in the bottom of the first inning and allowed only three base runners and one hit the final 5 1/3 innings. She struck out four, walked one.

Tied 8-8, Basler’s home run in the fifth inning came after singles by Leah Seichepine and Devin Purcell. The Blue Devils added a fourth run on Alexis Rymer’s run-scoring double and then ended the game in the sixth with four more runs on five straight hits – singles by Jennica Messer, Seichepine, Purcell and Madison Pope and a double by Basler.

Basler finished with two doubles and a home run and five RBI while Rymer doubled and singled twice and drove in three. Messer and Seichepine also had three hits and Purcell had a pair of singles in an 18-hit attack.

The Blue Devils’ comeback started with a 5-run second inning ignited by four straight hits – singles by Rymer, Abby Henson, Messer and Seichpine and capped by a 2-run single by Grosstephan. KCKCC then pulled even in the fourth on doubles by Basler and Hannah Redick and 2-run single by Rymer.

Ellsworth’s 8-run first came against sophomore MacKenzie Pinkerton, who was making her first start of the season. Only two of the runs were earned off Pinkerton, who gave up six hits and walked two. The big blows were a 2-run home run by Gintare Paskocimaite and a grand slam by Mya Mathes.

Ellsworth won the second game by breaking a 2-2 deadlock with a pair of home runs in the top of the seventh. Sidney Larson broke the tie with a 3-run blast and Paskocimaite followed with a solo shot.

Held scoreless the first four innings, the Panthers got their first run in the fifth on a double by Larson and then tied it without a two-out double in the sixth.

The Blue Devils were held to just four hits by Katy Payne, who left the bases loaded to end the game. KCKCC took a 1-0 lead in the first on a Purcell single, stolen base and Basler ground ball and made it 2-0 on Seichpine’s 2-out triple in the second.

However, Payne escaped a bases-loaded, one out jam in the third and then retired the next 10 Blue Devils in order. Basler (4-4) took the loss, allowing 12 hits but stranding eight runners on base. She struck out four.

Gustin pitches Lady Blue Devils to sweep of Neosho County

KCKCC sophomore righthander Tiffany Gustin recorded her 15th and 16th wins of the season Thursday as she pitched the Lady Blue Devils to 10-4 and 4-2 wins over Neosho County at Piper. (Photo by Jan Humphreys)
KCKCC sophomore righthander Tiffany Gustin recorded her 15th and 16th wins of the season Thursday as she pitched the Lady Blue Devils to 10-4 and 4-2 wins over Neosho County at Piper. (Photo by Jan Humphreys)

Mekayla Guerrero’s towering 2-run home run to right field put KCKCC ahead to stay 6-4 on the way to a 12-4 win over Neosho County Thursday. It was Guerrero’s fourth home of the season and she singled and doubled in the Blue Devils’ 4-2 nightcap win. (Photo by Jan Humphreys)
Mekayla Guerrero’s towering 2-run home run to right field put KCKCC ahead to stay 6-4 on the way to a 12-4 win over Neosho County Thursday. It was Guerrero’s fourth home of the season and she singled and doubled in the Blue Devils’ 4-2 nightcap win. (Photo by Jan Humphreys)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College rode the pitching arm of sophomore Brittany Gustin to a sweep of Neosho County Tuesday.

A Raytown graduate, Gustin scattered 10 hits in a 6-inning 12-4 opening game win and then repeated in a 4-2 decision in the 7-inning nightcap played at the Piper softball complex. The wins were the 15th and 16th against nine losses for the Blue Devil right-hander.

The sweep improved KCKCC’s record to 23-18 heading into a Thursday makeup game at Highland at 2 p.m. The Lady Blue Devils then close out their home season this weekend at Steineger Field adjacent to Turner Middle School. Sophomores will be honored between games Saturday when the Blue Devils are the host to Cottey College at noon and 2 p.m. KCKCC is also scheduled to be the host of a University of Missouri club team Sunday, again at noon and 2 p.m.

KCKCC used the long ball to win the 12-4 opener. Tiffany Killam and Mekayla Guerrero each ripped 2-run home runs and Mekayla Foskett crushed a two-run triple. It was the 15th home run for Killam, a KCKCC record, and the fourth for Guerrero.

LaTisha Thomas, who had four of the Blue Devils’ 15 hits, led off the Blue Devil first inning with a single and scored one batter later on Killam’s line home run to left-center for a 2-1 lead. KCKCC made it 4-1 with two out in the third on Foskett’s triple following singles by Geena Harris and Gustin.

Neosho knotted the game in the fourth, scoring three runs on five straight hits but KCKCC quickly re-grabbed the lead on Guerrero’s towering home run to right following a leadoff single by Thomas. The Blue Devils then put the game out of reach with four runs in the fifth on just two hits, a run-scoring single by Thomas and a 2-run single by Harris.

KCKCC then spread the game in the sixth on hits by Savannah Dukngan, Thomas and Morgan Oroke. In addition to Thomas’ four hits, Harris had three and Oroke and Gustin two each.

Gustin allowed only three hits in the first four innings of the 4-2 nightcap before Neosho scored its only two runs on a home run in the fifth. By then the Blue Devils had built a 4-0 lead.

The first two runs came in the first on singles by Thomas and Oroke and then added two more in the third on Gustin’s 2-run single following singles by Guerrero and Oroke. Oroke finished with three hits and Guerrero added a single and double.