Blue Devils’ 38 wins equal second most victories in season

While six KCKCC sophomores will be lost, seven starters to return in 2020

Lana Ross was flanked by sophomores, from left, Faith Maslak, Gracie Gentry, Brittney Beck, Kaylee Arnzen, Britney Smith and Paris Forshey who helped KCKCC finish 38-20 in Ross’ first year as head coach and equaling the second most wins in a season. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Lana Ross has served notice. There’s going to be another big dog in the Jayhawk Conference softball race.

Despite the worst spring weather in a couple of decades. Ross’ first team at Kansas City Kansas Community College: 1) Won 38 games, equaling the second most wins in KCKCC history; 2) Divided regular season series with each of the three co-champions; and 3) Reached the NJCAA Region VI District D championship game.

“Finishing 38-20 exceeded my expectations,” Ross said. “To get through a season with just 13 players I couldn’t have asked for any more. If someone had told me before the season we would be in the championship game, I definitely don’t think I would have believed it. But this group worked so hard and it really paid off. I don’t think people realize the time and work that goes into a season and all the extra hours put in by the girls, Coach (Jenn) Strohman and myself.”

Finishing 12-8 in the Jayhawk, the first winning conference record since 2014, the Blue Devils put six players on the All-District D team. First baseman Kaylee Arnzen, shortstop Hannah Redick, outfielder Devin Purcell and pitcher Shay Grosstephan were named to the first team; second baseball Britney Smith and pitcher Mackenzie Pinkerton to the second team. Arnzen and Smith are the only sophomores.

One of only three sophomores in the starting lineup, Arnzen led the team in most offensive categories. Hitting .379, she also led in home runs (10), RBI (51), extra base hits (23) and slugging (.667) and set KCKCC records for walks (39) and putouts (337). The other sophomore starters who will be lost are Smith, who hit .307 and earned second team All-Jayhawk honors; and Parish Forshey, who had just one error in 39 chances in left field.

The other losses include pitcher Faith Maslak, who was 7-2 with six complete games and a 2.77 ERA; catcher Brittney Beck, who hit .216 in 38 games; and Gracie Gentry, pinch-runner deluxe.

Seven starters will return including infielders Redick and Alaina Howe, outfielders Purcell and Alexis Rymer, catcher Jennica Messer and pitchers Grosstephan and Pinkerton. Grosstephan, who got two wins in the district playoffs, finished 15-6 with a 4.10 earned run average. She walked 54 and struck out 73 in 145 innings. Pinkerton was 16-12 with four saves and a 4.65 ERA. She struck out 134 and walked 91 in 161 innings.

Redick was second in hitting (.368), led in hits (75) and drove in 37 runs from the leadoff position; Howe started all 58 games at third base, hitting .230 with 25 RBI. Rymer did not have an error in 76 chances in right field while hitting .337 with 22 extra base hits and 40 RBI while Purcell had just one error in center in 77 chances while batting .354 with 18 RBI and a team leading 14 stolen bases. Messer played 40 games behind the plate without an error while hitting .297 with 24 RBI.

Unable to get outside because of snow, ice and cold, the Blue Devils’ first games at Crowder were also the first outside the KCKCC Field House.

“Not conducive to having a great season, especially not having an opportunity to face live pitching,” Ross said. “But I think we peaked at the right time. The freshmen really stepped up. Howe made some great plays at third; Purcell covered a lot of ground in center; Redick was good all season; both pitchers got better. So we’re in pretty good shape for next year.”

Ross and assistant Jenn Strohman have already signed promising recruits to fill needs for next year – and more.

“They’ll add competition to the sophomores which will only make us better,” Ross said.

Despite the bad weather start, an all-weather field enabled the Blue Devils to play 58 games, the second most in the nation and their 38 wins were more wins than Jayhawk co-champion Johnson County played (24-12). Wins over nationally ranked teams included Highland (No. 5), Crowder (No. 10) and JCCC (No. 16) – and league co-champion Hesston 6-5 in the regional semifinals that was especially special.

“I’m super proud of the way they came back in the regional after being behind 5-0,” Ross said. “It showed what kind of team this was. They could have easily thrown in the towel. And we beat some good teams this year so I’m really excited about the future of this program.”