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Thursday, May. 10, 2012

South softball gets on track

todpalmer@theolathenews.com

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Olathe South is beginning to resemble the program that has reached the Kansas 6A state tournament for three straight seasons and five of the last years.

That couldn’t always be said this season, but the Falcons have surged to 13-3 and are poised for another run at the state crown after a sluggish beginning.

“When we split with Shawnee Mission Northwest earlier this year, I think everybody made a pledge that — not that we would win every remaining game, but that that loss would be our low moment,” Falcons coach Mike Allen said. “We decided to work that much harder, and we have been.”

For South, that mostly means clubbing other teams into submission, which is what happened Wednesday in a 11-0, 15-6 sweep against Shawnee Mission East.

“The offense is awesome right now,” senior pitcher Kahli Barrett said. “We are so awesome and it’s the best we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

It starts with senior Alex Hugo, who bats leadoff and has signed with Kansas. She hit two balls over the wall and two more off the center-field fence in the sweep against the Lancers.

“When she goes, we go,” Allen said. “The exception was when we beat Olathe East this year, but, most of the time, if she’s having good nights, everybody follows her lead. That happened tonight.”

But the production doesn’t stop there.

Behind Hugo, junior Kim Cole is a steady contact hitter with occasional pop, which she showed with a home run of her own against SM East.

Barrett, Tess Hart and transfer Joselynn Dean bring high averages and surprising power as well along with Lindsey Pinkham and Kelli Halder.

Meanwhile, Sarah Burks and Alyssa Bates provide speed at the bottom of the lineup, which often resets the table for Hugo.

The bats might be amazing, but that’s not what will propel South farthest in the postseason.

“The best attribute this team has, and they’ve had it for three years now, is our offense,” Allen said. “We can swing it with anybody in the state. Now, whether we can pitch and play defense with everyone else in the state? I don’t know, but our offense is solid.”

There’s no mystery to the Falcons’ resurgence. The defense and pitching have improved since the first few games.

“We’ve grown so much from the beginning of the year,” Barrett said. “Our errors are slim to none now and we’re hitting great as a team. We’re playing awesome.”

Barrett, who has been battling a back injury, was shaky in the opening inning against SM East but retired the last 18 she faced in picking up a win and a save.

“She did a great job getting ahead of hitter and didn’t have any walks, which is huge for Kahli,” Allen said. “She got a lot of groundballs, and when Kahli’s dropball is going well she’s going to get a lot of groundballs.”

It was a sterling performance, which might spell doom for South’s opponents if it continues.

“It feels like here at the end of the year everything is coming together good,” Cole said. “We feel like we can get stuff done in the postseason. If we keep playing hard and working as hard as we have at practice, I think we can go all the way.”

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