Danny Park can talk about the history of Newton High School softball — and remind anyone who wants to know that there is a state title in the school history. He can talk about when the Railers were dominant on the diamond.
He can also chuckle as he admits that as he enters his second year as coach, he is still seeking his first win as skipper.
“It is a humbling experience, rebuilding always is,” Park said. “Right now, the big thing is getting all the pieces in place and playing the game the way it is supposed to be played. I tell people all the time, if this team had played in the Greater Wichita League, it would have been 15-5. In the AV-CTL, we were 0-21.”
His second year will have some building blocks retiring from that team — most notably a pair of college-bound players. Dawsyn Long and Celina Perez have already signed to play softball at Kansas City (Kan.) Community College.
“With (Long) and (Perez), they are keys, with Maria McGonigal in the outfield, they were really good there last year.” Park said. “The scoreboard may not look like it, but we are not that bad defensively. We have five our six seniors this year.”
There's also a junior at first base, Kyndal Bacon, who draws high praise.
“She could be one the best softball players you ever saw,” Park said.
There is also a young newcomer that has impressed Park early on — sophomore Emily Peaney who is at the starting short stop position.
“She is just a solid all-around player,” Park said.
The biggest need Newton had last year was pitching — at one point Bacon was called on to pitch, something Park said he knows she did not want to do, but out of sheer need was forced to happen. In the final game of the season, that need of pitching reared it's ugly head.
In the regional tournament Newton was leading the No. 1 seed at the end of the fifth inning — but pitching ran out. When that happened, the team went on to lose what could have been their first, and an important, win.
This spring Park believes the Railers will have more depth at pitcher — though the team will be very young at that spot with with three freshmen and a sophomore.
So far, two pitchers have stood out during preseason practices — Alexis Turner and Alejanda Llamas. Turner is a transfer student who moved with her family from Missouri to Newton. Llamas is a freshman that, at this point, has a varsity spot. Lindsey Jones and Zoey Stonehouse, both freshmen, may also be asked to pitch varsity at times this season.
“Our pitching will be better this year. What we had last year was a lot of eight-run innings. You just can not pitch the ball right down the middle. It puts you behind,” Park said. “ … They look good with what they do and their control. Overall, they hit their spots and they move the ball really well. Speed, none of them are flamethrowers by any stretch of the imagination, but they place the ball really well.”
March 28 — Abilene
March 31 — at Valley Center
April 7 — Andover Central
April 11 — at Salina Central
April 18 — Campus
April 21 — at Derby
April 25 — Maize
April 28 — Salina South
May 2 — at Hutchinson
May 5 — at Goddard Eisenhower