Larned High School softball coach Carl Miller and the Lady Indians knew that they would take some lumps, when they scheduled the likes of Class 6A Garden City and Class 5A schools Great Bend and Hays.
In retrospect, it was the silver lining in Larned’s emergence on the Class 3A state softball scene. The Lady Indians endured a rigorous regular-season schedule and took the regional by storm en route to a berth in this weekend’s state tournament in Manhattan.
Sixth-seeded Larned (14-9) takes on No. 3 McClouth (20-3) in an opening-round game on Friday night at 7 at Twins Oaks Complex.
“I think our tough schedule has definitely been a factor for us,” Miller said. “The girls knew this going in that they were probably not going to have the best record and that we needed to get better.
“They’re beginning to believe that not only are they going to state, they’re going make a good showing there also.”
Larned opened the season by splitting games with Spearville, followed by a doubleheader split with Great Bend, which made it to a 5A regional championship game.
“We split with Great Bend, we dropped two to Hays (headed to the state tournament this weekend in 5A) and dropped two heartbreakers at Garden City,” Miller said.
“Spearville is going to state in Class 2A, where they’re seeded No. 1. Matter of fact, they’re 22-1 and we’re the only team to beat them.”
The catalyst for Larned has been pitcher/slugger Brittney Perez, who also qualified in the triple jump for this weekend’s Class 3A state track and field meet in Wichita.
But she’s opting for softball over track this weekend.
“When Larned lists dual sports (athletes) at the beginning of the season, she picked softball as her primary and that’s what she wants to go do,” Miller said. “She’s up-tempo and has a great attitude.
“The girls are excited and working extremely hard, even though the seniors have already graduated. They’re the first ones to practice.”
Perez owns an 8-3 record and has accumulated 93 strikeouts as the Lady Indians’ top pitcher. She also leads the team with a .554 batting average, along with totaling 51 hits.
“She’s a good athlete,” Miller said of Perez. “She’s hit seven homers this year as our No. 4 hitter in the batting order.
“She has plenty of power and runs the bases well. She stays selective, and she’s battled through some injuries.”
Katie Seeman, who has 44 hits on the season, owns a .489 average with two homers. She has a 3-2 record and 20 strikeouts as Larned’s No. 2 hurler.
Kala Coulson has a 2-5 record with 13 strikeouts.
Kaileigh Dietrich, who has 41 hits, is batting .446.
“The seniors don’t express one person as a leader,” Miller said of his team, which he described as having good role players.
“They all kind of step up and do their jobs,” Miller said.
NOTE — There will be a sendoff pep rally at the LHS parking lot on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ... The bus carrying team members will drive downtown before heading to Manhattan.