When Smoky Hill was eliminated in the first round of the Class 5A state softball tournament, an easy reason to pinpoint is the overall lack of experience for the team.
That won't be the case in 2020.
The Buffaloes are poised to make program history thanks to a talented junior class that returns to the field. An acceptable goal alone would be to get past the first round, but coach BJ Kingsbaker thinks this team is capable of so much more.
"Our motto this year is 'Go Finish,'" Kingsbaker said. "I think this group can play with any team in the state."
He's probably not wrong. He returns a lineup that doesn't have a lot of holes on the offensive side. Juniors Izzy Giroux and Amarjie Bass blasted eight and seven home runs respectively and Grioux led the team in both batting average (.512) and doubles (13).
"I"m excited," Giroux said. "We're pretty stacked. We didn't lose and we've only added good players so we're one of the most feared teams in our league this year."
Checking in at No. 6 in the preseason softball rankings, the Buffs are heading into the season with a bit of added fuel. In their first-round loss at state, a mishap occurred at the start of the game that greatly changed momentum early. In all the hustle and craziness surrounding the state tournament, Kingsbaker accidentally mixed up Grioux's spot on the lineup card with Bass. When the girls batted out of order it killed a potentially big first inning. Smoky Hill went on to lose the game.
"What would've been a four-run first inning turned into a zero-run first inning all because of my mistake," he said. "We spent that entire game trying to battle back and even had a one-run lead heading into the seventh inning and just ran out of gas."
That inning and that overall result has this team running on a full tank of gas for the 2020 year.
"There's a lot of (motivation)," senior Jahlisa Klear said. "I can tell a lot of girls are ready to show up this year and get that (state) championship for Smoky Hill."
The Buffs are certainly capable of bringing home a title, and if they do it would be the first in program history. From the top of the lineup down, the lineup looks stacked. But it's complemented with a pitching staff that Kingsbaker would put up against anyone in the state. Juniors Delaney Farnsworth and Kenedy Sandoval went a combined 15-2 last season. Farnsworth finished the year with an ERA of 1.86 and Sandoval proved to be an effective lefty to mix things up when needed.
Adding to the mix is fellow junior Paris Elsberry, who missed most of last season due to an injury.
"She throws every curveball and screwball imaginable," Kingsbaker said. "She throws the kitchen sink at you."
That's going to give the Buffs a lot of different looks in the circle which only makes them more dangerous.
And considering the way last year ended, a deep and dangerous Smoky Hill team could go on an historical run in 2020.
"I felt like we deserved to go further," Grioux said. "I feel like that gives us a little more drive this season. We have a lot of good players and we all want it. We want to go out and win that state championship."