The 2016 Shawnee Heights softball team narrowly missed winning the school’s first state softball crown, losing to Seaman in the title game. Their determination to finish the job led the 2017 edition of the Thunderbirds to a truly historic season.
Shawnee Heights won all 25 of their games, most in dominant fashion, on their way to hoisting the 5A championship trophy last Friday at Two Rivers Youth Complex in Wichita. For a team that only rarely played the regulation seven innings in games thanks to a powerful offense and stifling pitching staff, it was only fitting that the championship game end on the ten-run mercy rule as well, as the Thunderbirds routed Blue Valley Southwest 10-0 to take the title.
Seven different Thunderbirds earned first-team All-Centennial League and All-City honors: seniors Faith Rottinghaus and Kaisha Wells; juniors Lydia Ostenson and Kaleigh Bayless; sophomores Paige Petefish and Sydney Wellshear; and freshman Jaycee Ginter. Ginter was named Newcomer of the Year in both the league and the city. In addition to Rottinghaus and Wells, the Thunderbirds also featured seniors Tara Stubits and Maddie Gifford.
It was a fitting way for long-time head coach Steve Giddens to end his coaching career at Shawnee Heights. Giddens told his team after winning the title that he would be stepping aside after 17 years and over 300 victories.
WIBW’s Dan Lucero spoke to Giddens about the Thunderbirds’ season to remember.