By CONOR NICHOLL
Uniontown softball has enjoyed success in recent years. The Eagles have one all-time state appearance, a quarterfinal loss to Chase County in 2018. Uniontown posted a 16-7 record, which is the all-time best record in program annals, per KSHSAA archives. Uniontown delivered a 14-4 mark in ’19.
After COVID-19 pandemic cancelled 2020, Uniontown delivered an 8-10 year last spring. This season, veteran coach Willie Hathaway noted he had “pretty much” had a new team outside of a couple of players. Uniontown has three freshmen who start on varsity and several sophomores starting who hadn’t played high school softball before.
While multiple Eagles had never played competitive ball, Hathaway was very pleased with the Eagles’ high athleticism and coachability. After the first week of practice, Hathaway shared a message with his assistant coach and athletic director.
“We are better right now than we (were) at the end of the last year,” Hathaway said.
Hathaway has proven correct.
Uniontown is off to an 11-5 start, including a split against a quality Yates Center squad and competitive losses versus Arma-Northeast and Jayhawk-Linn. Northeast and J-L are a combined 28-3. Uniontown also returned senior Alexa Fuhrman, a terrific two-way player.
“We are not afraid to swing the bat,” Hathaway said. “All of our varsity players are pretty aggressive at the plate, which helps. We have got a good class of freshmen.”
Freshman Reece Gorman, who enjoyed a strong basketball season for a 19-4 season, has started at second base. Gorman never played summer travel softball. She was second team all-conference Three Rivers League basketball, one of two freshmen picked to first, second or honorable mention teams.
“One of the best young second baseman maybe I’ve ever seen,” Hathaway said. “Just picked it up really quick, got good footwork, quick hands. She has struggled at the plate a little bit, just because she hasn’t played a lot, but she is getting better.”
Freshman Madison Shepard has pitched half the games and plays third base in the other contests. Hathaway has coached Uniontown wrestling for nine years, and Shepard competed on the mat in the winter. Hathaway noted her “really tough mentality.”
Freshman outfielder Macy Schoenberger’s older sister graduated last year after a standout career, especially in basketball. Shepard plays travel ball out of Pittsburg. Schoenberger has been limited on the travel ball circuit.
Senior Camryn Davis normally starts at first base, and Fuhrman catches the first game when Shepard pitches. Davis is a utility player who can see time at multiple positions. Versus Jayhawk-Linn on April 28, Hathaway knew J-L would try and slap. Hathaway played Davis at third base.
“I knew that she could field the position and throw them out,” Hathaway said.
Fuhrman is in the circle for the second contest. Fuhrman carries a team-high .667 average with six over-the-fence home runs, including four against Chetopa. Fuhrman was the team’s main 2021 pitcher and threw the bulk of the contests.
“The girl that everybody looks up to on our team,” Hathaway said. “She is kind of the leader.”
The catcher/pitcher combination is rare. The coaching staff talked to Fuhrman about whether she wanted to catch or pitch the first game of doubleheaders.
“She wanted to catch, because she said after she pitches, throwing overhand, like to second, she doesn’t feel like she has control after she pitches underhand the whole game,” Hathaway said. “So she wanted to catch the first game and pitch the second game. She has always been a good hitter. I think she had nine or 10 home runs last year, over the fence.”
Senior Kaydra Woods has played third base. Sophomore Rylee Coulter is a second-year starting shortstop and was honorable mention all-league basketball. Junior Emily Greenway plays left field and is a two-year starter.
“She’s solid out there,” Hathaway said. “If you hit the ball to her, she is going to catch it.”
Sophomore Brooklyn Dreisbach starts in centerfield. She has not played softball since she was 10. Dreisbach did track last season, and Hathaway talked her into softball. Uniontown needed a fast center fielder. Dreisbach carries a .558 average, including four triples and a pair of inside-the-park homers.
“Took off quite well,” Hathaway said. “And she is really good at the plate for not playing ball at all.”
Record-wise, Arma-Northeast (17-1), Uniontown (11-5), Southeast-Cherokee (9-5) and Pittsburg Colgan (5-7) pace the Cherokee regional. Colgan is the two-time defending 2-1A state champion before it took heavy graduation losses. Six of Colgan’s losses have only lost against CNC teams that are a combined 36-6.
Northeast features superb sophomore pitcher/hitter Shelby Underwood, who could threaten the all-time Kansas single season batting average mark and plays highly elite travel ball. Underwood hit a long home run versus Uniontown. Per Uniontown’s book, she went 4 of 8 and reached base three times via error.
“I know she is the best pitcher that I have seen since I have been coaching,” Hathaway said. “Now there has been some pitchers out there that I have heard about that are pretty good, but she moves the ball around well, she has a good changeup, and a good rise ball, and she can bring it. … I have played men’s fast pitch my whole life, and she brings it for a high school sophomore. I mean, she can throw it past.”
Uniontown and Northeast met April 4 for the Eagles’ second game this spring. Dreisbach hit an inside-the-park homer and triple against Underwood.
“She has really quick hands, and she takes the bat to the ball and puts it in play,” Hathaway said.
Uniontown had Northeast-Arma down 5-4 entering the sixth inning. However, the Eagles had multiple errors and walks and lost 15-5.
“Some of those girls had never played competitive against a team like that,” Hathaway said.
Arma took its only loss in a split against Yates Center. On April 21, Uniontown also split against YC in a rainy, muddy day. Uniontown lost 16-2 and won 6-2. Fuhrman earned the victory.
On April 25, Uniontown defeated struggling Chetopa, 22-3 and 33-2. On April 28, Uniontown was highly competitive against Mound City-Jayhawk Linn.
Uniontown lost, 16-6, and had a 7-6 extra inning defeat. JL, a perennial power, is 11-2 with losses only to Yates Center and Prairie View. Last year, Uniontown lost two games versus JL by a combined score of 34-1. Overall, Jayhawk Linn has won 10 of the last 12 in the series.
In the extra inning loss, Uniontown led 6-4 entering the seventh.
Hathaway remained positive in the postgame meeting and highlighted the team’s improvement against a quality team. Overall, Fuhrman is 6-1 with just a loss to Northeast with a 2.40 earned-run average with 27 strikeouts.
“Losing 7-6 to Mound City is a lot better for us than winning 25-0 against Altoona,” Hathaway said, referring to an April 18 victory.