Playing with pain
Summer league ball helps Epperson forget high school season’s close call
It's been nearly a month since the Eudora Cardinals softball team fell a run short of going to state.
But for third baseman Kelsey Epperson, the 3-2 loss to Louisburg seems like yesterday.
"I'm still disappointed about that loss," Epperson said. "We came so close, and it's hard to get over it."
Fortunately for the incoming senior, there is something to keep her mind off the season-ending defeat. This summer the Cardinal infielder plays for the American Softball Association team, the K.C. Fusion.
The team comprised mostly of players from the Kansas City metro area and coached by former Kansas University softball coach Bob Stanclift, plays in tournaments throughout the summer.
"I really like playing with them," Epperson said. "Just playing helps me get my mind off of what happened at the end of the season."
Forgetting the past is less a motivation for summer play as focusing on the future, Epperson said. The Cardinal third baseman has played with local softball teams during the summer before but now hopes to get a little more exposure with the Kansas City team.
"I wanted to see some different coaching and some different players," Epperson said.
Along with the new perspectives, the team allows Epperson to hopefully gain the attention of prospective colleges.
Scouts looking to perhaps deal out a few scholarships grace most of the Fusion's tournaments. Even though she hopes for one of those offers, Epperson tries not to worry about the coaches' presence.
"You know that they're there," Epperson said. "But you really can't go looking for them, because that's just too much pressure. You have to just go out and play."
Epperson hoped to catch the attention of a Division II school or some other program that would allow her to maximize her goals, while keeping in touch with home.
"I want to set my goals high for softball, and some of the smaller schools really have some good programs," Epperson said. "Plus I would really like to stay close to home."
And if a certain local Division I school came calling?
"I would go to KU in a heartbeat if the opportunity came around," she added.
For now Epperson and the Fusion are in the midst of a stretch of tournaments that began last weekend in Blue Springs, Mo., and will end with a late June event in Westminster, Colo.
The Westminster tournament lasts nearly a week and will put the players' talents on display for many of the college scouts.
In particular, the tournament boasts "exposure camps" where each player wears a number and participates in drills and practice sessions for scouts.
The summer tournaments are a way for players to get their minds on the future. But even so, Epperson feels the pangs of what might have been.
"We (the Fusion) were playing a game last week," Epperson said. "And I found myself in the same situation as the Louisburg game (a chance to drive in the tying run), and I still couldn't help but think about that game. Even my dad made the comment that it was a lot like that game."