Wamego looking to stay perfect

Kelly McHugh

By A Contributor

Having a good work ethic, a coach that pushes her players to succeed and a dedicated team has paid off this season for the Wamego High softball team.

The Red Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the state, are currently 18-0 going into regionals next week.

Coming off a sweep of Chapman on Tuesday, Wamego will play as the top seed on Monday against No. 8-seed Hiawatha at Chapman.

Wamego was supposed to play a final doubleheader on Friday against Doniphan West, but the series was cancelled due to Doniphan not having enough players to field a team.

For the surging Red Raiders, though, it’s all business now as they prepare for the postseason.

“We stick with fundamentals at practice,” Wamego coach Dawn Reed-Schultz said Wednesday. “The game itself never changes, so we have to work on those little things, and, for the most part, stay busy. We’re always working; there’s not much standing around, we’re very efficient with our practices.”

Their efficient practices have paid off as far as statistics go. Along with their undefeated season, the team has 10 shutouts and three players — freshman Brittany Finney, senior Morgan Dillon and junior Sydney Buster, with top-five batting averages in the NCKL.

Though the Red Raiders defeated Chapman by a combined score of 31-5 on Tuesday, it hasn’t always been so easy this season for a team that has just two seniors.

One of the tougher doubleheaders was earlier this month when Wamego traveled to Clay Center to face the Tigers.

Wamego scored just one run in the third inning of the first game and held on for the 1-0 victory. The second game was close as well, but Wamego found itself on top 3-2 for its 14th straight win.

The Abilene series also stood out for the Red Raiders this season — a 6-5 win and a 9-2 victory over the Cowgirls.

“They’ve all been good, but the Abilene game was really great,” senior second baseman Morgan Dillon said. “In years past, it’s always been Abilene beating up on us, but this time, it was us beating up on Abilene, and we got the last laugh.”

New to the team this year is freshman pitcher Brittany Finney. Not only is Finney a team leader when it comes to her .564 batting average, but she also leads the NCKL in hitting.

Finney said she has always had high hopes for the Wamego softball team, especially considering she was the team’s batgirl for six years.

“I’ve always had high hopes and I knew we had good potential,” she said. “So, I’m just really proud to see the girls working hard and working toward the best they can be.”

Finney attended a national softball camp in California this past October where she caught the eye of the Oklahoma coaching staff. A month later, Finney visited OU and committed while on her trip to Norman.

But Finney isn’t the only freshman on the Wamego roster doing good things this spring, as four others are suiting up for the Red Raiders.

Finney said she’s looking forward to the next three years at Wamego.

“I hope we carry the energy that we have right now,” she said. “The success we have right now and the high hopes, and that we carry it through until our senior years.”

Reed-Schultz is in her second season with the Red Raiders and, as a former college coach at Rogers State in Claremore, Okla., and former player for the University of Tulsa, she knows the game well and said she enjoys coaching the high school level.

“I like it — it’s different.” she said. “The kids, because they’re such a variation of skill level, you can see significant improvement in this age group, more so than you can at the collegiate level.

“They get a lot better in a shorter period of time than they can at the collegiate level. It’s awesome to see them progress in a short period of time and get better.”

Since Reed-Schultz’s time in Wamego, the Red Raiders have seen growing success, as the team went 16-6 a year ago, followed by their undefeated run this season.

“Coach Dawn’s been the best coach ever,” Finney said. “Ever since we came to the program, we’ve excelled so much and she just teaches us something new every day.”

Reed-Schultz is pleased with the progression of the program after just two years in Wamego.

“The girls worked really hard and I think that our overall record shows their work ethic, dedication and teamwork really played a part in our success,”  she said. “The kids have really bought in to what we are trying to do and it shows in our record, in our stats, and our attitude.”

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