In Scott Mall’s mind, drawing Lawrence Free State for a first round sub-state opponent was as tough as it could get for the Manhattan High softball team.
Free State enters into the Washburn Rural regional on Wednesday with a 12-7 record and a spot as the No. 4 overall seed.
The scariest part for the MHS coach, is the unpredictability that comes with a team that plays so many schools out of the Olathe area.
“They play some excellent competition in their league with the Olathe teams that are always competing at state,” Mall said. “You never know about them, no matter their record you know they have faced some really tough pitching. Every area is different so the pitching they see is different than what we see. You never know how things are going to work out, it’s just whoever gets the best matchup.”
The winner of that game is likely to face 17-3 Washburn Rural, which will open with the winner of a game between a pair of winless teams in Kansas City Schlagle and Leavenworth.
The Junior Blues handily beat the Indians (10-10) during a doubleheader at Topeka on May 4, and Mall said it might have still been bothering his team in the regular season finale last Tuesday — a doubleheader that was swept by Topeka High.
“It was a tough time because we had just gotten done losing to Washburn Rural and I don’t know if we were quite over that yet when we played Topeka High,” he said. “We tried to stress from the Washburn Rural games out that it’s about the postseason now. All of our goals are still ahead of us to accomplish.”
The Indians have struggled in games when timely hits and errors have hurt them in the form of big innings for their opponents.
Last Tuesday, Topeka High used just that, MHS’ defensive errors and timely hits for the Trojans, to put together big innings in each contest that made it tough for the Indians to keep pace.
Mall said the key at regionals is to avoid those things, while getting a little bit of it coming back their way.
“One, you have to be able to shut down the big innings, and two you have to be able to score,” he said. “We’ve done it at times, and you would like to play that way every game — hopefully we can do that on Wednesday.”