Kansas City Kansas Community College will open the 2020 softball season ranked No. 18 in the NJCAA DII pre-season national rankings.
It is the first time the Blue Devils have been ranked in the pre-season poll and the first time in any national rankings since the 2004 team reached the NJCAA national tournament. KCKCC is one of three Jayhawk Conference teams ranked in the opening poll. Highland is ranked No. 5 and Johnson County No. 8.
"A nice compliment, a little credit to the program after the season (38-20) we had last year," said second year head coach Lana Ross. "It's a great recruiting tool and lets our recruits know we working to get better. But as far as this team goes, we're really not looking at the polls. We're just looking at what we need to do to get better every single day."
Despite the worst spring weather in a couple of decades, the Blue Devils' 38 wins last season equaled the second most wins in a season. The Blue Devils also divided regular season series with each of the three co-championship teams and reached the NJCAA Region VI district championship game.
In her 16th season of coaching, Ross is no stranger to being ranked. In her 13 seasons at Iowa Western, her teams were ranked 11 times.
Seven veterans return from last year's squad, all starters. They include pitchers Shaylun Grosstephan and Mackenzie Pinkerton, catcher Jennica Messer, infielders Hannah Redick and Alaina Howe and outfielders Devin Purcell and Alexis Rymer. They are joined by an outstanding freshman class of 10.
"This team has some talent; we just need to put it together," says Ross. "Right now, we're at about 40 percent of what we need to be. We're four weeks away from our season opener so we have four weeks to go from 40 percent to 80 percent. The work ethic is there but I'm not seeing that inner drive of coming to practice and wanting to get better – part of which probably can be attributed to having to practicing inside. Hopefully we'll be able to get outside Sunday and Monday."
The Blue Devils will open the season Tuesday, Feb. 25, when they host the No. 5 ranked team in the nation, Kirkwood of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Metropolitan Community College follows Feb. 27 and State Fair March 3 before KCKCC goes on the road for the first time.
Head coach Lana Ross keeps a watchful eye on indoor batting practice as she readies her No. 18 ranked KCKCC softball team for the start of the 2020 season Feb. 25. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)