BY HALEY WHITE
A pair of Fort Hays State University alums have guided the Thomas More Prep-Marian softball and baseball teams to the Class 3A season finales this week in Manhattan.
The softball team, with an 18-5 record, will make an appearance at the state tournament for the third consecutive year under head coach and former FHSU softball player Melissa Schoepf.
“For some of these girls, this will be the third time they get to play in a state tournament,” Schoepf said. “I’m confident in the group of girls we have on our roster, and they definitely deserve this moment. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into this season, and I am excited to see what they can do at the state tournament.”
Senior pitcher and Highland Community College softball commit Bailey Lacy said her team’s determination on the field is what gives them a competitive edge entering state.
“Our whole team has a drive to them, and we all hate to lose,” Lacy said. “It helps us to push each other, and that is one of the main reasons why we have went to state the past two seasons.”
The No. 5 Monarchs seed will open with Oskaloosa (20-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Twin Oaks Complex’s Field A.
A win in the opener would put the Monarchs against either top-seeded Haven (22-1) or Riverton (14-9) in Friday’s 11 a.m. semifinal.
Friday’s championship is slated for 2 p.m., with the third-place game set for 1 p.m.
The softball team will be looking for its first state crown since 2008, when the Monarchs won the 3A finale. That was the second of back-to-back titles, with a 4A crown coming in 2007.
Much like the softball team, the TMP baseball team experienced success throughout the entire regular season. The team has only one loss this season and easily guaranteed a spot in the state tournament by rolling through its regional last week.
Head coach Dustin Washburn, also an FHSU alum, said the new coaching staff was key to bringing the program back to the top — as well as the experience his group has.
“We have 11 seniors, which is unheard of at this level,” said Washburn, who also guided TMP to the 3A state tourney last year in his first season at the helm. “They’ve been playing with each other since they were little, so the amount of success they had with one another this season was expected.”
Starting pitcher Cole Zimmerman said the team’s 22-1 record is a result of the team being close-knit..
“We’re a tight group, and we play that way,” Zimmerman said. “Our teamwork together is our strength.”
The Monarchs will take on Wellsville (19-4) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round at Kansas State University’s Tointon Family Stadium. A win puts the top-seeded Monarchs in Friday’s 1:15 p.m. semifinal against either Riley County (19-2) or Humboldt (20-3).
Friday’s championship is slated for 5:45 p.m., with the third-place game at 3:30 p.m.
The baseball team won a state title in 1974 in Class 5-4-3A, and in 1981 in Class 4-3-2-1A. St. Joseph’s, which later became part of TMP, won the AA-A title in 1961.