Category Archives: softball

Why Cowley and Butler don’t play in softball


In the process of putting together our juco softball previews on NJCAA Division I No. 11 Butler and NJCAA Division II No. 3 Cowley that ran in today’s Eagle and at, one of the questions I asked both coaches – Doug Chance at Butler and Ed Hargrove at Cowley – was why the two schools don’t play each other.

Turns out, there’s some lingering bad blood between the schools. And it all goes back to a Cowley pitcher named Ashly Bright, a 2006 doubleheader that never happened, the difference between NJCAA Division I (Butler) and NJCAA Division II (Cowley), some hurt feelings and two completely different stories on what went down.

According to Chance, the Grizzlies were scheduled to play a doubleheader at Arkansas City. He didn’t think the Grizzlies could beat Cowley twice because of Bright, who would end up being a unanimous pick for Jayhawk East player of the year and pitch for Wichita State.

“She was so good, just dominant,” Chance said. “We didn’t think we could beat her, but we thought we might be able to get one game from them, from another one of their pitchers.”

Chance said that Hargrove called him a couple of weeks before the doubleheader was scheduled to be played and said Cowley would only play one game of the doubleheader against Butler, and would bring in another team to play the other game.

That didn’t sit well with Chance, because Butler and Cowley were both Division II at the time – Butler is now Division I – and he wanted both shots at Cowley, who would finish the year No. 2 in the national rankings.

Chance then had Butler assistant coach Zack Sigler call a Cowley assistant at the time — someone Zigler had worked with before — and cancel the doubleheader.

“I didn’t think that was right, for them to not play us both games because we had an agreement in place,” Chance said. “Since Zack had someone on their staff he knew, I had him call them.”

This is where the stories diverge in a big way.

“(Chance) had his assistant call us and cancel, and I think they didn’t want us to play because of Ashly, who was so dominant,” Hargrove said. “We never proposed bringing in another team. They cancelled on us and left a huge hole in our schedule.

“The assistant said it was because of budgetary concerns … which I find hard to believe because the schools are only 60 miles apart. Doesn’t make sense.”

Hargrove also admitted that their had been  lingering problems between the schools dating back to before Chance took the job, and in the battle for recruits.  From my perspective, Hargrove has been dogged in publicizing his team – if there’s any mention of Butler in the paper, brief or story, there’s usually a follow-up e-mail asking for the same for Cowley and citing the battle for recruits. Usually, the e-mails are pretty heavy-handed, but I understand he’s trying to promote his team.

“We split on going after a lot of the same recruits,” Hargrove said.

And that leads to the Division I vs. Division II stuff – Butler is one of five teams in the Jayhawk that play Division I, which means they’ve chosen to go against jucos around the country with full scholarships, something the Jayhawk does not offer. Cowley is one of 16 Jayhawk schools that play DII and go against other partial and non-scholarship jucos.

“I think one difference you can see is where we place players,” Chance said.

That’s actually a good point – take this for example – Cowley outfielder Laura Seeman has signed with Emporia State. Seeman was an All-American last season. Butler pitcher/outfielder Kelsey Berlin, a similar player is headed to Arkansas. Butler has a glut of Division I players on their roster, already signed. The Tigers might have one this year. How successful they’ll be on the next level is anyone’s guess, but the perception from NCAA Division I programs is that the juco DI schools are producing more talent right now.

That’s not to say the teams won’t ever play again – Chance said he’s approached Cowley about setting up games, which Hargrove confirmed, but said he’s taking more of a wait-and-see approach.  Chance said he’d even be willing to pay for the umpires to make it happen.

“We want to play,” Chance said. “Anytime, anywhere.”




Two Cowley softball players named 1st team All-Americans … and they’re both freshmen


Big postseason honors today out of Ark City, as Cowley CC freshman outfielder Laura Seeman and freshman 2B Haley Strawn were both named first-team NJCAA Division II All-Americans – capping a big year in which the Tigers won the Jayhawk East and finished 4th at the NJCAA D2 Tournament.

Strawn, who I wrote a feature about last month, led Cowley in batting (.505), home runs (20), doubles (29), hits (107), runs scored (82), total bases (196) and slugging percentage (.925). She also recorded a .991 fielding percentage in her first year playing second base – her natural position is shortstop. Cowley coach Ed Hargrove moved her to second after another player quit before the season.

Seeman, a Maize product, led Cowley in on base percentage (.551) and was second in home runs (15), runs scored (64), total bases (148) and slugging percentage (.846). She also was third on the team in hits (88) and RBIs (67).

The big question now, and I suppose this is a good problem to have, is if Hargrove will still move Strawn back to shortstop like he said he planned to.

Highland pitcher Zuzana Kudernatschova and Independence 1B Heather Lanphear were also first-team picks out of the Jayhawk.



Cowley softball heads to NJCAA Division II Tournament


The Cowley College softball team is headed back to the NJCAA Division II Tournament – their first trip since 2009. Heres my article on the Tigers’ trip to Clinton, Miss.  that is up at and running in Wednesday’s Eagle.

Ranked No. 4 in the last national poll, the Tigers are the No. 5 seed and face No. 12 Mercyhurst on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The Tigers are on the same side of the bracket as top seed and defending champion LSU-Eunice, but Cowley is as stacked as any team Ed Hargrove has brought to nationals in his 28 seasons. Two-year starter Taylor Hatfield (.421 BA, 5 HRs, 68 RBIs) has signed with Kansas and has been the Tigers starting catcher for two years.  Courtney Rash (1B), Haley Strawn (2B), Kelsey Overacker (OF) and Laura Seeman (OF) all were named All-Jayhawk East. The pitching duo of Taylor Parsons and Haleigh Sills matches up as a 1-2 punch with anybody in the tournament.

I’ll keep you updated on wins/losses for Cowley and Butler, which opens NJCAA DI play Thursday against Pima.



All about the Butler CC softball team’s Region VI title



Kelsey Berlin, a freshman right fielder for Butler Community College, was back at practice on Thursday after four days of unexplained absence from her teammates –  Kelsey’s father, Tim, died last Wednesday. After having a heart attack on Sunday in Wichita, he survived four days on life support. Here’s my story on what happened and how that fence at Wichita State’s Wilkins Field got the hole in it during last weekend’s Region VI Tournament, which Butler won to advance to next week’s NJCAA World Series in St. George, Utah. The story will run in Wednesday’s Eagle.

Read More »

Bethany softball rolls into KCAC Tournament


The Bethany softball team has put together the greatest season in school history – so far – and hopes to keep that run going as it begins KCAC Tournament play Wednesday at 2 p.m. against the winner of 10 a.m.’s Saint Mary-Sterling game at Fun Valley Softball Complex in Hutchinson.

Here’s my feature on the team that’s running at and in Wednesday’s Eagle – the Swedes are 40-7 overall and 17-1 in KCAC play, good enough for their second straight KCAC regular-season title. They’re also ranked No. 24, the first appearance in the Top 25 in school history.

The job Esses has done recruiting with the Swedes is nothing short of amazing – only four native Kansans on the roster. The team is dotted with talent from everywhere but, it seems, with the focus on targeting players from states without as extensive higher-education systems as Kansas, where small colleges and jucos are in abundance.

You can follow along with results from the KCAC Tournament here.



Cowley softball building around Haley Strawn

Here’s my feature on Cowley College second baseman Haley Strawn that ran in Saturday’s Eagle and at Strawn, a freshman from Oklahoma City, was recruited by coach Ed Hargrove to play outfield this year and then shortstop next season – her two natural positions. When Cowley’s second baseman left the team before the season started, Strawn stepped up. How she was able to learn the position was really amazing – read the article to find out how.

Oh yeah, she’s also one of the best hitters in the nation.


ESU’s Sheeley, Brattin playing for NPF’s Tennessee Diamonds



Here’s the thing about Sunflower Slate — once you’re with us, we’ll roll with you wherever you go … in this case, all the way to National Pro Fastpitch.

Former Emporia State players Samantha Sheeley, a pitcher, and catcher Aubree Brattin are both on the roster for the Tennessee Diamonds of the NPF, a new (kind of) franchise that used to be the Rockford Thunder before moving this past offseason. Sheeley (who you can follow here on Twitter, check the pic!) led the Hornets to the national championship game in 2008 and was an All-American before moving on to the NPF last year, where she was 3-5 with a 4.32 ERA for the Thunder and pitched with former Texas star Cat Osterman. Brattin is in her first season in the NPF and was an all-MIAA pick in 2009. You can follow both of them this season via the NPF site. The NPF has been around in some form since 1989 and is sponsored in part by Major League Baseball … so you’ve got to think this league has got a pretty good shelf life. Good luck to these two.


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Disappointing finish for ESU baseball, softball


Seems weird to write that a team had a disappointing finish when they both DID make it to an NCAA Regional … but I think, in this case, it fits.

As far as the baseball team goes, the amount of success Emporia State has had under Bob Fornelli is really incredible — he’s single-handedly turned the Hornets into one of the elite teams in NCAA Division II.  But I think even he would admit (I hope he would admit, anyways) that one year after finishing as the national runner-up, the preseason No. 1 team in America, with a handful of preseason All-Americans … that this team came up short. No MIAA regular-season title, no MIAA Tournament title, and then this. Was it the weight of expectations? Only the people in the locker room know for sure. But I can’t help but think this wasn’t in line with what they had planned for the season.

The ESU softball team is more of a hard-luck tale. Their greatest disappointment has got to come from losing in an NCAA Regional that they’re hosting — compounded by the fact that both losses came to the same team, Angelo State, and both came after blowing leads. In this case, the expecations didn’t come so much before the season as during it, when the Hornets blistered the rest of the MIAA, winning both regular season and league tourney titles. Here’s the thing about ESU, though … they bring almost everybody back, including both ace freshman pitchers in Paige Ladenburger and Jennifer Heerey. If I were a betting man (which I’m not) I’d say they’d be a no-brainer top 5 pick next year and one of the prohibitive favorites to win the 2011 national title. That’s just too much firepower coming back.


ESU softball wins MIAA Tournament … now can they win the whole thing?



Miranda Campbell, what more can you do?

The MIAA player of the year belted a grand slam to propel Emporia State to its SEVENTH straigth MIAA Tournament championship on Saturday in a 10-1 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Overland Park, and now the Hornets will have to wait until Monday to find out if they will host one of two South Central Regionals, which should happen as they were No. 2 in the regional rankings headed into the league tourney.

Now, the question needs to be asked: Can they win the whole thing?

It appears they have a team with a legitimate shot — a pair of aces in freshman pitchers Paige Ladenburger and Jennifer Heerey (a Goddard product, BTW), a superstar third baseman in Campbell and a great coach in Kristi Bredbenner. So, yeah, they could win it.

On another note — and maybe this is something I can get into this summer — I am continually amazed by the product that ESU puts out in its ability to compete on the national level. Just in the last year we’ve seen the baseball team finish as national runner-ups, womens’ basketball win a national title and now softball with a legit shot. And all this without their two marquee sports — football and men’s basketball — doing much of anything recently. I’m just saying. It bears investigation, and commendation. Good thing I’m here!!!