Memories, sweet memories
In most cases, dreary skies and wet weather do not do softball teams any favors. In the case of the Eudora Cardinals, this spring's abundant rain showers may have given the team a boost.
After Eudora started the 2007 season with a 4-3 stretch that included losses to tough squads like Paola and Spring Hill, inclement conditions resulted in the cancellation of five of the team's next nine games.
"I think the rainouts worked to our advantage", coach Cara Kimberlin said. "We had a couple of kids with nagging injuries. Playing only five games in three weeks left us feeling very fresh."
Before the run of postponements began in late April, the Cardinals were stuck in a haze thanks to several players' sore hamstrings and pitcher Brynn Hamilton's shin tendonitis.
Playing an average of one game every five days gave the players a chance to nurse their wounds and conserve some energy for the trip to the postseason.
Eudora emerged from the rain-shortened regular season sporting a 10-4 record, with one of the losses coming at the hands of the formidable Paola Panthers. The Panthers ended the season with a third place finish at the state tournament.
"We went into state knowing there was a team we lost to 3-2," Kimberlin said. "It told us that we deserved to be there and we could play with those teams."
Before getting the chance to prove themselves at the state tournament, the Lady Cardinals had to make their way through the regional bracket.
Eudora arrived at Basehor-Linwood as the No. 4 seed but defeated No. 5 seed Tonganoxie, upset No. 1 seed Spring Hill and outlasted No. 6 seed KC-Piper to emerge as the regional champion.
If the Cardinals' performance in the regional tournament was a surprise, their success in the state tournament was unbelievable.
Eudora, the No. 6 seed, survived its first two games in Mulvane with timely hitting and dominant pitching. Brynn Hamilton allowed only one run in 14 innings of work against No. 3 seed Girard and No. 2 seed Andale/Garden Plain. Though the Lady Cardinals lineup only mustered a combined five runs in the first two games of the tournament, they advanced to face Thomas More Prep in the championship.
Eudora ran into trouble in the state final. The Monarchs out-pitched, out-hit and out-fielded the Cardinals to extend their winning streak to 17 games and capture the state title.
Despite the disappointing final game, the team's trip to the state tournament was an unprecedented feat in the seven-year history of Eudora High softball.
"It's a great accomplishment for the kids," Kimberlin said. "Every year it's something that's a goal. To do something that has never been attained before is a good feeling for them."
Four important pieces of the 2007 team will not be available in the 2008 season. Along with Hamilton, Beth Folks, Catilyn Riser and Brittany Stillian have all graduated. The departures of Hamilton and Riser leave the team without much pitching depth and the lineup will lose some punch without Folks and Stillian.
Kimberlin said she could turn to her current roster to fill the void at pitcher. MacKenzie Salzman, who will be a senior next season, has potential as a starting pitcher, Kimberlin said.
On a larger scale, things look promising for the Eudora program. Kimberlin spent the past week administering a softball camp, and said the 60 participants aged 14 and under are excited about the team's success.
The current members of the team also have quite a bit to be excited about: they have a few more months to savor the 2007 season before it all begins again.