The challenge, Tracy Bertoncin realized when she first eyed the Missouri lineup for the Mo-Kan All-Star Softball Series, wasn’t going to be how she could beat the Kansas team.
It was going to be how she could lose.
“That was the comment of many vocal softball gurus,” said Bertoncin, the softball coach at Lee’s Summit High School. “How could you lose with that team? I just tried not to get in their way.”
Bertoncin, of course, has been around softball enough to know what she needed to do as coach of the Missouri all-stars, which wasn’t much. One good practice and plenty of talent were enough to produce two lop-sided victories in the annual showcase of the Kansas City area’s top softball players June 16 at the Shawnee Mission District Softball Complex in Shawnee, Kan.
The Missouri squad had a roster packed with powerful bats like Staley’ Sara Harvey, who homered in Missouri’s 7-1 victory in the first game and hit a two-run double in the 15-5 six-inning romp in the second. Missouri also had Rachel Pate, the catcher on Lee’s Summit’s Class 4 state-champions last fall. Pate finished with four hits over the two games.
And Missouri also had Truman’s Paige Parker, one of the best pitchers the area has ever produced. The left-hander gave up only three hits and struck out 18 in the first game.
“When I looked at the roster, I really felt like it would be almost impossible to beat us because we’re a great hitting team,” Bertoncin said. “And that’s the thought I shared with them at their practice.”
Bertoncin, who coached the Missouri stars in 2003 and was an assistant coach in 2010, only held one practice before the game. She could have had two practices, but when she did that in the past she never got all the players to show up for both.
With this group, she figured one workout out would suffice.
“The thing that we really worked on in practice was communication and playing catch with one another,” Bertoncin said. “That’s where we’ll make our mistakes.”
Pate, the only Lee’s Summit player on the team, said the team blended together nicely even with one practice. While they were all high school rivals, many of them had played together on competitive club teams.
“It was more kind of fun than like a competitive game,” Pate said. “It all came together when we went on the field. Playing with people who love softball, it’s all pretty simple.”
Pate had played before with Parker, and she was behind the plate for Parker’s dominating performance in the first game. For Bertoncin, that was one of the highlights of the whole experience.
“Getting to have one of my seniors play in the game made it more special,” Bertoncin said. “Rachel played very well.
“It was just a lot of fun. It’s a neat way to honor these kids for a great high school career.”
Pate will play next year for UMKC, so the Mo-Kan series served as a last hurrah for her successful high school career. She wasn’t the only one: Every other player on the Missouri squad will also play college ball.
“So it was kind of like this was the final thing for high school, and now we’re going to be moving on,” Pate said. “It was an awesome experience. It really was.”