Plainsmen softball taking fearless approach to state

May 15—The Laramie High softball team had an eventful conclusion to the regular season.

The Plainsmen split a doubleheader against Cheyenne Central last Saturday, taking the conference portion 15-11 before dropping the second game 5-4.

The win over Central represented more than mere bragging rights. Laramie entered play a game below Wheatland in the conference standings, and the Plainsmen were on the outside looking in for this weekend's state tournament in Gillette.

The conference win over the Indians was enough to push Laramie into the East's No. 4 seed, securing its first state tournament appearance since 2022.

"We talked about our path to state," Laramie coach Luke Andrews said. "We did just enough to get there on Saturday. The girls were riding high. We hope that we can stay up throughout the weekend."

Added junior Amanda Kricken: "There's no way to describe the feeling we got. Central has been our rival forever, and beating them in a conference game when it mattered felt like a huge weight off our shoulders."

While Laramie split with the Indians, Wheatland was swept by Thunder Basin on Saturday, allowing the Plainsmen to jump the Bulldogs in the standings to secure the final seed at state out of the East Conference.

Laramie's win also snapped a four-game skid and was the team's first conference win since beating Cheyenne South 10-0 on May 1. Laramie surrendered at least 10 runs in each of its four consecutive losses leading up to its matchup with Central, while never scoring more than six.

"We quit trying to hit home runs," junior Maddie Doser said. "We started putting it in play and going for line drives into gaps. We wanted to start getting runners on base and putting pressure on the defense."

The Plainsmen's bats exploded against the Indians, resulting in 18 hits in game one and seven more in game two. That caliber of offensive production will be needed when the Plainsmen open play against West No. 1 seed Cody at 4 p.m. Thursday in Gillette. The Fillies won 15 games this season, including an 8-1 conference record.

"We played a lot of the same girls when we were in state two years ago," Andrews said. "We haven't played Cody since then. They're the No. 1 seed over there for a reason, and we've got to come out and play our best game against them."

Cody senior Violet Wollschlager leads the West Conference in batting average (.692), RBI (40) and home runs (eight). She's averaging a home run every 7.3 at-bats this season.

As a team, the Fillies are batting .442 and scored 210 runs during the regular season, compared to Laramie's marks of .318 and 172, respectively. Cody was also much more aggressive on the base paths, swiping 55 stolen bases to Laramie's 13.

"We've got to think about this game like any other," Andrews said. "At state, everybody's on a level playing field. Everyone has the same chance as everyone else.

"The field size, distance of the fence and bases are all the same."

In the circle, the Fillies have deployed a three-arm rotation. Senior Riley Simone has tossed the bulk of the innings with 63, and boasts a 10-1 record with a 3.64 earned-run average. She is second among pitchers in the West in walks plus hits per innings pitched at 1.63, strikeout percentage (27%) and strikeouts per game (6.2).

"We need to come in with a calm head," Doser said. "We don't need to put too much pressure on ourselves. We play a lot better when we have fun."

Laramie primarily uses a trio of pitchers in Kricken, senior Paige Kuhn and junior Calli Cass. However, freshman Delaney Suloff pitched well at the end of the year, already earning trust from the coaching staff.

"We've gotten pretty consistent across all of our pitchers," Andrews said. "(Kuhn) has done good keeping teams off balance. (Kricken) has done a good job developing in that closer role and being a change of pace from the other girls."

Cass had the most appearances during the regular season at 13. Kuhn displayed consistency throughout her appearances in the circle, leading the team with a 5.40 ERA and 2.23 WHIP through 38 innings.

Kricken tossed 21 innings this season, including a two-hit complete game win against Central in March.

"We know we're a good team, too," Kricken said. "We need to take care of business. We've beaten them before. Our confidence as a team has never wavered at any point this season."

During their last state tournament appearance in 2022, the Plainsmen upset Cody 14-1 in the opening round. Just like the matchup this weekend, Laramie was the East No. 4 seed, while the Fillies were the No. 1 seed out of the West.

Offensively, the Plainsmen know they have to be more consistent. Prior to the win against Central, LHS hadn't recorded double-digit hits in a game since besting Campbell County 18-9 in the nonconference portion of a doubleheader May 3.

"We have found ways to win in different ways," Andrews said. "In some cases, we rely on defense. Sometimes, it's like it was against Central: A high-scoring game where you're trying to outlast the other team.

"It bodes well for us that we can win in different ways."

The winner of Laramie and Cody will advance to a second-round matchup with the winner of East No. 2 Thunder Basin and West No. 3 Natrona County at 10 a.m. Friday. The loser will still be alive going into day two, as the state tournament is a double-elimination format.

"(Reaching state) means a lot to our seniors," Kricken said. "We thought last year was going to be our year, which makes this year mean that much more."

Austin Edmonds covers Laramie High, University of Wyoming and community athletics for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @_austinedmonds.