Experience gives New Franklin High a big advantage this weekend.
The Bulldogs hope to use that to earn a Class 1 state softball championship.
“We’ve all been playing together since I can remember,” shortstop Whitney Lang said.
Because the girls on the team have grown up playing softball together, they have developed team chemistry stronger than most other teams have at the end of a season, they said.
“When we were younger, we’d play on recreational teams,” catcher Sarah Moreau said.
“And then when we got older, we played on traveling teams, and now, in high school.”
New Franklin (20-3), about 20 miles west of Columbia, will face the Lone Jack Mules (16-1) in the Class 1 semifinals at 11:30 a.m. today at Cosmopolitan Park.
The winner advances to Saturday’s final at 4:30 p.m. The Class 2 final is at 5 p.m., with the Class 3 title game at 5:30 p.m. and the Class 4 final at 4 p.m.
“We just want to play well defensively and try to generate a little offense,” New Franklin coach Terry Early said. “We know they have an awfully good pitcher.”
Through District play, Lone Jack pitcher Megan Davis had 84 strikeouts and a 0.78 ERA.
“We just lack a little confidence in our hitting, but that has been coming around,” Early said.
Early, who has coached the Bulldogs for 25 years, named Moreau and pitcher Kayla Wies as team strengths.
“We’re able to keep teams from producing a lot of runs against us,” Early said.
Wies, a freshman, is 17-2 and is expected to start in the tournament. Through district play, she had 141 strikeouts and a 1.16 ERA.
“It’s a lot more than I expected as a freshman,” Wies said.
Moreau is a three-time All-State player and three-time Conference MVP but said that her accomplishments have added little pressure for the postseason.
“It would be great to do that well again, but I’d prefer it if our team won state,” Moreau said.
The Bulldogs were state champions in 1989. This is their fifth trip to the championship tournament. Their most recent appearance was in 1998.
“We have the physical talent to do well, but sometimes we let mental blocks get in the way,” Moreau said. “Like if we start slow or get down on ourselves. This time in the season, we need to realize we can do well.”