Summer seasoning pays off for Heritage
BROADLANDS — Four seniors have played softball four years at Heritage High School, establishing a legacy that will last forever.
Another group may come along and duplicate the Class of 2012's record of four consecutive 20-win seasons, but no future graduating class can surpass it.
Until current seniors Alex Danner, Brittany Latham, Hilary Smith and Dani Stigers entered high school, Heritage didn't have as much as one 20-win season in softball.
Now, 92 victories later, those seniors have helped create a solid and enviable tradition.
The 92nd win came Wednesday in a 2-0 Class 1A regional semifinal conquest of a Salt Fork team the Hawks had split with this spring. The shutout was the 14th for Smith (22-3) and helped Heritage raise its single-season school-record win total to 27.
Leadoff batter Stephanie Sanderson scored the Hawks' runs, including one in the first inning.
Smith, who struck out 10, walked one and yielded two hits, didn't need any more support. A veteran team is showing the benefits of experience.
"We've had a lot of travel-ball experience," Smith said. "Our class, and the one before us, I think everyone had played some before high school."
Lisa Sappenfield Boyer, the third-year softball head coach, said coaching makes a difference, but she wasn't patting herself on the back.
"When you have successful high school teams, you'll find someone else put in the time when the kids were younger to put you (the high school coach) in position to help them get better and better," she said.
Heritage's program — with 52 wins the last two years — is no exception.
"There was a three- to four-year cluster of kids who came in (with summer experience)," Sappenfield Boyer said. "Myron Luth had a lot to do with it, and Brian Smith (Hilary's father) had another (youth) group."
Her job, then, is to continue the growth process and development.
"The girls have kept working and progressing," she said. "When they get to be seniors, the maturity and the finality gives you about another 25 percent boost."
First baseman Stigers said the evolvement has been gradual.
"We've gone from being such a young team — there was one senior when we were sophomores — to now we're an old team," Stigers said. "As we've gotten older, we've gotten wiser about what we're doing."
The key against the Storm (15-14) was making routine plays. Salt Fork committed six infield errors and neither run allowed by Hunter Marsh — the lone Storm senior — was earned. Marsh, a Parkland College recruit, permitted four hits, walked no one and struck out four.
Storm coach Kali Ford pointed out the obvious difference in the teams.
"It's good for us that we have young players," Ford said, "but it hurts us in big games because we're inexperienced at times. Hunter threw a great game, but so did Hilary."
Heritage plays top-seeded Schlarman in Saturday's 11 a.m. title game.