In the past 10 years, Kapaun Mount Carmel softball consistently has finished in the top half of the City League.
The brightest span was from 2002-05, when the Crusaders won the league title twice and finished second and third. In the last four years, Kapaun has finished fourth, three times going 10-6.
This could be the season Kapaun gets back in the top three. The Crusaders' key doubleheader is against Heights next Tuesday.
"That's going to be the games for third place," Kapaun coach Missy Congdon said. "Whoever comes out on top with that will finish third. I'm really excited about it."
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Kapaun's 8-3 league record includes two losses to Northwest and one to Bishop Carroll. Kapaun plays Carroll in a single game tonight at Two Rivers Youth Club.
The Crusaders' infield is a reason for their success, especially with the play of freshman Cassie Kelly and sophomore shortstop Demi Gardner.
Kelly plays third base and second base in doubleheaders.
"She's been an asset to our team as far as her defensive skills and batting," Congdon said. "She has a great glove, and she's got quick reactions to the ball. She'll lay out and dive for the ball. She has a gun for an arm and is very accurate on her throws."
Gardner was a catcher but is playing shortstop for the first time.
"It's been almost natural for her," Congdon said. "It's been amazing, really. She has such great glove skills and she's very consistent. I feel so comfortable with her there. I can hardly get anything by her in practice when I'm hitting at her."
Kapaun's pitching is also a strength with Liz Stasiewicz and Molly Faragher, both returners. They're similar pitchers in that neither has much speed, but they hit corners.
Call it a comeback —Collegiate senior Emma Horton missed most of the 2009 season at shortstop when she tore the labrum in her right (throwing) arm in the Spartans' second doubleheader. She held off on surgery until late May, staying in the lineup as a hitter and even playing some first base.
But her arm strength quickly declined, and coach Greg Siddall said her batting average dropped 200 points. She's stronger than ever now, though, and plans to walk on at Tulsa.
"Her arm bothers her some, but her arm is a little more accurate because she doesn't overthrow," Siddall said.
Horton is also hitting .600.
Don't miss this — Maize plays at Goddard on Friday night, and you shouldn't miss this doubleheader. Maize is 12-0 and Goddard 9-1, with its only loss to Arkansas City.