The Girls High School Softball Summer League has been busy since the end of June.
From June 24 up until this week, dozens of spectators have attended softball games at Field 6 at Santa Fe Park. They have witnessed a 3-1 Chanute team thanks to the most recent win over Coffeyville last week.
The team includes one junior, four sophomores and 11 freshmen from Chanute High School. Chanute head coach Beth Jackett said her team has been making strides from day one.
“I have a very young team, (and) they’re all doing an outstanding job,” Jackett said. “The freshmen are definitely showing me that they have talent, and they’re going to work hard to take an upperclassman spot. Some of them will probably succeed, so I might be young come spring, but I’ll have them for four years so it’ll be pretty exciting for years to come.”
The time is now for everyone, but especially the upperclassmen. The one junior on the team is Riley Hicks. Sophomores are Kami Naff, Preston Keating, Grace Thompson and Madison Cunningham. Freshmen are Jacie Costin, Marlee Miller, Kelsey Haviland, Ashley Haviland, Isabella McMahan, Addie Ward, Tierra Ward, Alexis Ogle, Jay Smith, Kadynce Axelson and Peyton Shields.
These players have been playing two games a week every Wednesday evening. The league competes against teams such as Humboldt and Independence (two teams), playing a grand total of eight games. The last game of the season is July 15.
Jackett said there is a goal in mind.
“(I) just kind of get to see what I have coming up and get them to play a little bit since they missed out on their spring season as well,” she said. “We’ve done this for several years. The seniors graduate, move on, and we get to see what we have coming back and we get to see who we have coming back and what we have coming up through the middle school. (It’s) just a good time to look forward to what you have coming.”
The summer softball league has been on and off for the last several years, and two summers ago, there wasn’t one, but Jackett said she wanted to make it a point to bring the league back.
But there are a few missing pieces due to the league being optional for players. Senior Jerlyn Kustanborter hit fifth during the 2019 season and is a utility player. Last season, she batted .290 with 12 singles, eight doubles and 15 RBIs, while she played defense with a .883 fielding percentage.
Another notable missing piece is Kori Babcock, now a senior, who played third base last year. In 2019, she earned second-team All-SEK thanks to batting .361 with 17 singles, five doubles and 11 RBIs as the sixth batter in the lineup. In the infield, she registered a .846 fielding percentage.
Senior Brianna Waggoner is another missing player. In 2019, she had a .328 on-base percentage with 10 singles, three doubles and 10 RBIs, while in the field she earned a .969 fielding percentage with just three errors.
But those players will likely suit up for the spring 2021 season, if there is one.
The time is now for Costin, who said she has made progress in the summer season.
“I think I’ve done pretty good so far. I’m trying to work on the outfield, like catching, drop stepping and throwing more pitches when I’m pitching,” Costin, who plays all positions, said. “I feel like every time we play, we have learned something new every single time.”
Miller, who plays catcher and third base, said she is in the process of getting better.
“I thought I did pretty good. I still need to work on some things and I think I need to work on being able to play more anywhere,” Miller said.
The team has played in unprecedented times due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Working with the Chanute Recreation Commission to run the league, Jackett said she has implemented rec center precautions to keep her players safe, including bringing their own softballs on the field when on defense, preventing sharing softballs between the teams, encouraging social distancing for players in the dugouts and for fans in the stands, disinfecting the dugout after each game, among others guidelines.
Governments and counties across the nation have been following recommendations and guidelines for as long as COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly recommended counties use the Ad Astra plan for reopening businesses and phasing events in levels. Last Friday, Kelly issued an Executive Order #20-52, which requires most Kansans wearing a mask while in public spaces, as well as “in places where individuals are unable to maintain social distancing of six feet.”
While more than 90 Kansas counties rejected the mask mandate, USD 413 suspended all activities for one week – including Chanute summer softball and summer school for this week – because of the uncertainty of needing to wear a mask, Jackett said.
“With the governor’s recommendation on the masks, by the time they released that information and Neosho County made their decision (to opt out), we would be in a holiday weekend, and so they actually postponed summer school for one week and because they did that, they also had to be fair and postpone all sport activities as well,” Jackett added. “And even though I’m through the rec center, I felt it was the right thing to do to follow USD 413 guidelines.”
Jackett said the next (and last) opponents will be Humboldt and Labette County on Wednesday at Santa Fe Park Field 6.