About this time last year, a state championship was a realistic goal for the Maize softball team, but a lot has changed in 365 days.
The Eagles’ 2018 season ended in their Class 5A regional championship, falling to rival Maize South and ending the careers of eight touted seniors. Now the 2019 Maize team will look to pick up where they left off without a senior on the varsity roster.
Maize coach Jenny Meirowsky has been with the Eagles for almost a decade and a half. She said she has never not had at least one senior to lean on.
Instead of only a few players having to learn the plays in practice, everyone is still learning, Mierowsky said.
Last year’s group had a wealth of experience in high profile games. Some of the 2019 Eagles do, but not nearly as much.
Although there are some negatives with such a young roster, Meirowsky said it’s not all bad.
“None of them have a chip of their shoulder,” she said. “They are all here for the same reason. They all want to win and learn together and have fun. That’s what we’ve been saying all year, ‘Just have fun.’ “
This year’s Eagles seem to play looser. Junior short stop McKensy Glass said there was definitely a lot of pressure that weighed on the team last year that doesn’t feel as strong in 2019.
“We just fit so well together even though we don’t really know each other,” she said. “I feel like last year we knew each other so well that it was just maybe hard to come together as a team.”
Glass is now one of the bona fide leaders of one of the Wichita area’s premier softball programs.
She provides a level of poise in the middle infield that is vital to the Eagles’ structure. She offers a clutch bat and even came in to relief pitch and close out a 5-2 road win over Eisenhower on Tuesday.
Glass is one of two returning All-AVCTL I first team selections for Maize. Junior center fielder Sophia Buzard is the other, and she is just as important.
Buzard wears her confidence at the plate, and it shows. Tuesday, she was the Eagles’ most reliable bat and always seemed to cross home when they needed a momentum-swinging run.
Buzard said she was afraid of how the team would mesh but that everything seems to be ahead of schedule to this point.
“It just seems like everyone came out,” she said. “No one is in their shell. Everyone is doing their job, and when we all do our job, things go really well.”
Outside of Glass and Buzard, there is little varsity experience on the Maize roster. The junior pair said that took some getting used to.
Buzard said the young group started building chemistry at offseason workouts. Soon, they held team bonding events outside of the diamond.
Now they are on their way with young players like sophomore pitcher Rylie Wertz, freshman catcher Chloe Bartlett and sophomore Madi Bowen all stepping up.
Meirowsky said though this year will undoubtedly bring its challenges, as it did in game 2 of the Eagles’ doubleheader against Eisenhower - an 8-5 loss, it will be fun to sit back and watch her group of strangers become a family.
“We’re starting over,” she said. “I’ve always had a lot of hard workers. I have a lot of girls that play a lot of ball. So even though there are a lot of changes happening, we are just working together and learning each other.”