ALTAMONT — The girls side of the Labette County sports equation has dominated this season. The volleyball and girls basketball teams both earned SEK League titles and berths to the KSHSAA Class 4A State Tournament.
With softball season in full swing this spring, the Grizzlies are looking to make a late-season surge to possibly earn a third team state berth.
Labette County split a series with Fort Scott that started on Friday in Fort Scott and ended Monday in Altamont with Game 2 being paused due to rain on Friday. The Grizzlies won Game 1 7-2 before dropping Monday’s contest 5-4. Fort Scott trailed 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning before pushing across to runs to walk off with the win.
“Our first game against Fort Scott, we hit the ball well,” Labette County head coach Mike Hayward said. “We hit the ball well both games. But we had some mental errors here and it cost us the second game.”
Hayward entered the spring having worked the job as head coach for nearly two years before getting the chance to put his team on the field due to last year’s season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Labette County sits at 5-7 overall and 4-2 in SEK League play, with the two losses coming to Chanute and Fort Scott.
“It’s a big difference,” Hayward said. “We should be 6-0 in the league. But it’s just mental mistakes right now. We’ve got a good team. We’re young and we hit the ball hard. We’re just not being patient at the box right now.”
Pittsburg currently leads the league with a perfect mark against SEK opponents.
Anchoring the circle for the Grizzlies are a pair of freshmen in Riley Bebb and Lily Beery.
“We’ve got two freshmen pitchers that are starting for us at the varsity level,” Hayward said. “They’re both very good. They’ll have some pitches over the heart of the plate every now and then. Every now and then, I call some wrong pitches.”
Both came into the program with big expectations.
“They play a lot of travel ball,” Hayward said. “I’m glad they’re with us and hopefully we get them for four years. Both girls have pitched a lot. They’re very competitive. They don’t like to lose.”
Peppered throughout the lineup are familiar names in Anna Dean, Madison Brannin, Shelbi Wilson and Karsyn Stewart that continue to make a difference.
“We can compete with anybody,” Hayward said. “I truly believe we can do very well in Class 4A.”
Offensively, Hayward wants to push the tempo.
“We’re an aggressive team,” Hayward said. “We’re first-pitch hitters sometimes and we need to be more patient there. But if the ball is hit, on the base paths, we’re moving.”
With regionals scheduled for a May 17 start, the Grizzlies hope a late season resurgence can be the recipe for the rare trifecta of state tournament bids.
“We’ve got a good chance to make it to state,” Hayward said. “I’m sure every coach believes that. But if we can get everything together, I know what this team is capable of.”
Labette County is slated to face Independence at home on Thursday.