KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Boasting the best hitting team in Kansas City Kansas Community College history, Kacy Tillery’s Lady Blue Devils will make their strongest bid for a return to the national tournament in10 years this weekend.
With four players hitting better than .400 and seven of nine starters hitting at least .300, the Blue Devils (33-13) will take a team batting average of .395 into the four-team Region VI tournament at Topeka’s Hummer Park Saturday.
The No. 4 seed, the Blue Devils will open at noon against No. 1 seeded Highland, the nation’s No. 8 ranked Division II team with a 36-8 record.
The other noon semifinal will match No. 2 Independence (40-14) and No. 3 Cloud (29-12) . The two winners and the two losers will then collide at 4 p.m. with tourney play to be completed starting at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Saturday’s meeting with Highland will be the third for KCKCC, which dropped 9-2 and 3-0 decisions at Highland. “If our pitching and hitting are on, we can play with anybody,” says Tillery, who last took KCKCC to the NJCAA national tournament n 2004..
Leslie Ford, who is third in the nation in number of innings pitched with 272, will carry the pitching load for KCKCC. As the workhorse of the staff, Ford is 21-6 with a 1.76 earned run average, seven shutouts and 21 complete games.
Ford has also given up 13 home runs, which could be a problem. Highland is sixth in the nation in home runs this year with 40 and has a team batting average of .373. For is expected to face Paige Crawford (12-2 with 1.68 ERA) in the opener.
The top of the KCKCC lineup may be the best in the nation. Third baseman Lacey Santiago his hitting .494 in the leadoff position and leads the team in stolen bases with 14; centerfielder Justice Scales is hitting .497 and second in RBI with 41; and outfielder Mierra Morrisette leads in hitting (.500) and RBI (49) from the No. 3 spot.
Second baseman Amanda Holyrod leads the team in home runs with four, is second in RBI with 45 and hitting .397 from the cleanup spot while shortstop Hanna Barnhart is hitting .421 with 25 RBI at No. 5.
Catcher Megan Dike, a .365 hitter with 11 stolen bases; Ford (.287), outfielder Ashley Henington (.307) and first baseman Laura Vanderheiden (.282) round out starting lineup. Santiago, Morrisette, Holroyd, Barnhart and Dike are all sophomores.