Seven veterans return from 38-win KCKCC softball team

No. 18-ranked Blue Devils to play host to Marshalltown Saturday, Metropolitan Sunday

KCKCC’s 2020 softball fortunes will be built around seven returning starters – front row, from left, Alaina Howe, MacKenzie Pinkerton and Hannah Redick; second row, Devin Purcell, Shaylun Grosstephan, Alexis Rymer and Jennica Messer. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Lana Ross set the bar high in her first year as head softball coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College – a 38-win season that equaled the second most wins in KCKCC history.

Seven veterans return from that 38-20 team that got to the finals of the Region VI DII tournament. They’ll be joined by a solid corps of nine freshmen, providing depth that the 2019 team lacked.

Kept inside most of the spring semester by inclement weather, the Blue Devils will finally open this weekend when they play host to Marshalltown Community College Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. and Metropolitan Community College Sunday in a doubleheader starting at noon. They’ll also play host to State Fair Tuesday and No. 9 ranked Kirkwood Thursday, March 5.

“I like the focus and work ethic we’ve developed in practice although we’ve only been able to get outside a couple of times,” Ross said. “The experience we have from the sophomores who played almost every game is going to help the freshmen tremendously. They understand the grind of the season coming up.”

The Blue Devils have veterans at every position – pitchers Shaylun Grosstephan of Girard and MacKenzie Pinkerton of Chanhassen, Minnesota; infielders Hannah Redick of Shawnee Mission North and Alaina Howe of Eudora; outfielders Devin Purcell of Eudora and Alexis Rymer of Piper; and catcher Jennica Messer of McLouth.

Grosstephan was 15-6 with a 4.08 earned run average; Pinkerton 16-12 with four saves and a 4.64 ERA. Pinkerton struck out 134, walked 91; Grosstephan kayoed 73, walked 54.

“We expect big things out of them,” Ross said. “They know what a college season is like and can provide leadership. Both were very focused and worked hard in the off season.”

They’ll be joined by two freshmen, righthander Bradi Basler of Lansing and southpaw Nerida Elson of Auckland, New Zealand.

“They will compliment the sophs very well,” Ross said. “We expect them to throw a lot of innings early to get experience. Basler can be dominant and Elson spins the ball well and will keep hitters off balance.”

Messer, who hit .297 with 24 runs-batted-in last season, is being challenged behind the plate by Alex Schafer of Lexington, Oklahoma. A third catcher, Georgia Faunt of Auckland, New Zealand, is sidelined by injury.

The infield is pretty well set except at second base where Howe is locked in a duel with freshman Madison Pope of McLouth. Howe batted .230 with 25 RBI at third base last season.

“Howe brings the experience and is a real competitor; Pope is very good defensively,” Ross said.

Depending on who is on the mound, Pinkerton or Basler will be at first base. Pinkerton hit .256 last season with 25 RBI. Redick returns at shortstop after finishing second in hitting last season with a .368 average. The leader in hits with 75, she drove in 37. Freshman Abby Henson of Pleasant Hope, Missouri, has earned the starting job at third base.

“Great arm, throws well, gets good jump on ball,” Ross said.

Speed should be a plus in the outfield. Purcell, who led the Blue Devils in stolen bases with 14 while hitting .354, returns to centerfield and Rymer to right where she batted .337 with 40 RBI and 22 extra base hits. They’ll be joined in the outfield by freshmen twins Leah and Alyssa Seichepine of Leavenworth and Haley Masisak of Lansing.

The Blue Devils lack the power provided last season by Kaylee Arnzen, who hit .379 with 10 homers and drove in 51.

“It’s hard to tell about hitting without being outside but we’re going to have to string hits together,” Ross said. “Our game experience is really going to help and we have a lot of versatility if we need to move players.”

Ranked No. 18 in the NJCAA DII pre-season poll, the Blue Devils face a challenging schedule. In addition to No. 9 Kirkwood Tuesday, they’ll play No. 3 Des Moines Area in the tough Crowder tournament and face No. 5 Highland and No. 7 Johnson County in the Jayhawk.

“We need to play tough opponents to get ready for conference play because of the changes,” said Ross, who is again being assisted by Jenn Strohman. “This year only seven conference teams will advance to the post-season so every game is going to count.”

2020 Softball Schedule

Saturday, Feb. 29       Marshalltown CC                   Home                          1-3 p.m.

Sunday, March 1        Metropolitan CC                    Home                          12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, March 3      State Fair CC                         Home                          1-3 p.m.

Thursday, March 5      Crowder College                      Neosho, MO.               2-4 p.m.

Friday, March 6         Kirkwood CC                         Home                          2-4 p.m.

Sunday, March 8         Northeast Oklahoma A&M      Miami, OK.                  1-3 p.m.

Tuesday, March 10    Ellsworth CC                          Home                          1-3 p.m.

Thursday, March 12    Fort Scott CC**                      Home                          2-4 p.m.

Saturday, March 14     Crowder Tournament               Fayetteville, AR.          TBA

Sunday, March 15       Crowder Tournament               Fayetteville, AR.          TBA

Tuesday. March 17    North Dakota College of Science  Home                          1-3 p.m.

Thursday, March 19    Ottawa University JV               Ottawa, KS.                 1-3 p.m.

Saturday, March 21    Cowley College**                    Arkansas City, KS.       TBA

Thursday, March 26    Coffeyville CC**                     Home                          2-4 p.m.

Saturday, March 28    Hesston College**                   Hesston, KS.                1-3 p.m.

Tuesday, March 31      Labette CC**                           Parsons, KS.                2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 2        Allen County CC**                  Home                          2-4 p.m.

Saturday, April 4         Johnson County CC**             Overland Park, KS.     12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, April 7          Fort Scott CC**                       Fort Scott, KS.                         2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 9        Labette CC**                          Home                          2-4 p.m.

Saturday, April 11      Southeast Nebraska CC         Home                          12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, April 14       Crowder College                    Home                          2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 16       Cloud County CC**                Concordia, KS.                        2-4 p.m.

Saturday, April 18       Neosho County CC**              Home                          12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, April 21        State Fair CC                            Sedalia, MO.                2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 23      Highland CC**                                   Home                          2-4 p.m.

Wednesday, April 29  Southwestern Iowa CC          Home                          2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 30      Allen County CC**                 Iola, KS.                      2-4 p.m.

Saturday, May 2          Johnson County CC**                        Home                          12-2 p.m.

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