By Matt Turer — email@example.com
It’s been a good two-year stretch for Kickapoo’s softball program. The Chiefs have put up back-to-back winning seasons after finishing below .500 in every season since at least 2009. Kickapoo broke out with a district championship in 2015, and while they Chiefs didn’t get back there last fall, they finished the season 16-10 by winning 15 of their last 20 games after a 1-5 start.
All-conference catcher Megan Tiede and all-conference infielders Heidi Facklam and Sydney Williams graduated, but the Chiefs are going to have a strong freshman class to play with to go with its seniors, and return first-team all-conference selection Emily Admire (UTIL/P).
“Admire is a phenomenal hitter, and we have people throughout the lineup who are going to be huge contributors, from freshmen to seniors,” first-year assistant coach Chelsea Jones said at the Republic Summer League in July. Jones, a former Missouri State pitcher who won 44 games and struck out 270 batters in four seasons (2012-15) with the Bears, coached the team for much of the summer.
Jones was quick to point out that the Chiefs have strong leadership coming back in their senior class, keying on Admire, Katelyn Antrim (C/UTIL) and Lauryn Hickerson (OF/P/1B).
“Antrim is very passionate. The girls feed off her energy,” she said.
But this is becoming a program that goes beyond its upperclassmen, which is key for continued success and not just a good year here and there. Junior Chloe Bowen (IF) is another player to watch, and freshmen Chloe Merced (SS/CF) and Ellie Facklam headline a freshman class that Kickapoo coaches are excited about. Merced is the sister of Robbie Merced (Missouri State) and is said to be one of the top freshman student-athletes coming into Kickapoo. Facklam will see time on the mound as well as in the field.
“Upcoming freshmen are going to be really helpful to the team. Merced, wherever you want to put her, she’s an athlete,” Jones said.
The Chiefs certainly have a shot at a second district title in a three-year stretch if this team comes together, can carry over that momentum it built last year, and, as Jones said, focus on the little things.
“We need to be making sure we’re doing the small things correctly so when the opportunity comes to do the big things, we can handle those as well,” she said. “So moving runners, being strong, solid, supportive teammates, and knowing everyone has a role. Plus working on lots of energy and communication and really trying to get some momentum moving into the fall season.”