Varsity Kansas

Buhler taking softball more seriously now

That Buhler was sitting at 4-2 heading into Monday's doubleheader against Andover Central was a milestone. Especially after the 2009 season when the Crusaders won nine games.

In order to point out just how big that 4-2 record is, though, second-year coach Steve Patterson went back to the 2008 season when the team was 1-21.

"My oldest daughter (Stephanie, a junior), she's very competitive, she likes to win," Patterson said. "Everybody does. But just to see the heartbreak on her face (that season), it was hard."

So when the coaching position opened, Patterson, a summer softball coach, jumped at the chance. His younger daughter, Kimberly, a sophomore, is also on the team.

"Buhler has been more of a basketball school, as far as the girls go," Patterson said. "They are turning it around. The basketball program is pretty good still, but they're putting more effort in and outside work in toward the softball program."

Buhler opened its season splitting with Valley Center and Rose Hill. The split with Rose Hill was key because the Rockets are a Class 4A stalwart.

The Crusaders have three strong pitchers in senior Kacey Krehbiel, sophomore McKenzie King and freshman Natalie Sebastian.

"The thing that I like about them is we don't just come in with two pitchers anymore," Patterson said. "They really worked hard outside the season to get where they're at now. They've not gone out for other sports to focus on softball."

Kimberly Patterson, Buhler's catcher the past two seasons, has improved.

"She's grown up a lot," Steve Patterson said. "She's learning the game more, learning to call the game by herself instead of getting the signs from me."

Senior Christi Reese leads the Crusaders in hitting at .350, while Kimberly Patterson and Stephanie Patterson round out the team's top three.

No void at Northwest — When Northwest's Jessica Odell, a two-time All-Metro pitcher, graduated last spring, there could have been a void at pitcher.

There's not. Not with juniors Kelsey Berlin and Mac Millspaugh.

"Either one of them could be No. 1," Northwest coach Merri Copeland said. "It's a toss-up between them. It doesn't matter. They both throw a good game."

Copeland wants them pitching with confidence and consistency, and it's coming.

"I like the fact that they both know what their job is on the mound," Copeland said. "I keep reminding them, 'you're in control of the game, and you set the tone for the game.' It's just a matter of know what's expected of them. They both have played long enough to know what they are doing."

Strong pitching is key for Northwest, which not only has five freshmen on the roster but only one senior, and she's a transfer.

"The leadership is not really there," Copeland said. "I'm trying to train them."

Northwest (6-1) plays Heights at 5 tonight at Two Rivers Youth Club.