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If pitching is indeed the key ingredient for softball success, Kansas City Kansas Community College should be in good shape for the 2021 season.

            "As a staff, it's one of the best I've had in the last decade," says veteran Blue Devil Coach Lana Ross. The Blue Devils will start the season with six home doubleheaders including twin bills with Marshalltown Saturday and No. 9 ranked Kirkwood Sunday.

            The five-member pitching staff is made up of two veterans, Lansing's Bradi Basler and New Zealander Nerida Elson, and three newcomers, Breanna Droge of Hayden Catholic, Sammi Reynolds of Tonganoxie and Reagan Marsh of McLouth. Basler compiled a 4-4 record in nine starts in last spring's COVID shortened season. She struck out 59 and walked 20 in 43 innings. The lone lefthander on the staff, Elson was 0-1 in five appearances.

            Basler and Drogge give the Blue Devils two No. 1 hurlers from which to choose. "It's a toss-up," says Ross. "Both have very good control of all their pitches and both have great command of their change-ups." Elson will get the third starting assignment with Reynolds and Marsh ticketed for the all-important relief job. "We taught Elson the screwball in the off-season and she worked hard on her change up," says Ross. "Reynolds is a primary rise ball pitcher and ideal for relief."

            Offensively and defensively, the Blue Devils will be led by the three "supersophs," three players who will be playing their third season – outfielders Alexis Rymer of Piper and Devin Purcell of Eudora and third baseman Alaina Howe, also of Eudora.

A rightfielder, Rymer hit .337 and drove in 40 runs as a freshman and then batted a robust .452 last year with a .903 slugging percentage while Purcell has started every game in center the last two seasons, hitting .354 as a freshman and .347 last spring. Both are also outstanding defensively. Rymer has yet to make an error and Purcell has just one in their two seasons. A starter at both third and second base, Howe has hit .230 and .235 in her two years.

Howe and second baseman Madison Pope of McLouth will provide experience in the infield where they'll be joined by Baker transfer Hannah Maurer of Blue Valley Southwest at first base and Savannah Maynard of Blue Springs via Vermilion, Ohio, at shortstop. Alyssa Seichepine of Leavenworth will also get playing time at second while two other infielders, Haley Masisak of Lansing and Meadow Wyatt of Sparks, Nev., have yet to be cleared medically.

"Defensively, Pope is very good and such a good leader," says Ross. "Maurer is also very good defensively with great power at the plate. Maynard will be our leadoff hitter. She consistently gets the ball in play and gets on base and will also allow us to move Purcell back to second in the batting order."

Freshman Lindsey Gettle of Pleasant Hope gets the edge over veteran Alexander Schafer of Lexington, Okla., and freshman Jenna Daugherty of Olathe Northwest for the starting catching position while New Zealander Georgia Faunt has not been cleared medically. "Gettle receives well and has a good arm to second base," says Ross.

Lansing's Leah Seichepine, who led the Blue Devils in hitting with a .462 average last spring, will join Purcell and Rymer in the outfield. She'll be backed by a former Lansing teammate, freshman Shannon Jessup.    

"Offensively, we're about 80 percent where we want to be," says Ross, who is again assisted by Jenn Strohman. "We've got great speed and power but we didn't see any other teams in the fall; we just faced each other."

As usual, the Blue Devils will face a tough schedule starting with Jayhawk Conference play against No. 6 ranked and No. 7 Johnson County. In addition to No. 9 Kirkwood, KCKCC also plays two DI teams, Southeastern Iowa and Mineral Area.