Stanton Vikings/Viqueens

(Stanton) -- The Stanton/Essex softball pairing has proven wildly successful this summer. Grouping four new girls into a program and culture isn’t an easy task, but co-coaches Brandie McFarland and Lacey Stephens have found a way to make it work.

“Those four (Essex) girls have been great additions to the team,” Coach Stephens told KMA Sports. “They fit like they’ve been here their whole life. They came in open-minded, we were open-minded and I think some serious friendships have developed.”

The Viqueens (12-10) have been pretty steady all season long, improving their win total by seven games from last year.

“We went in thinking it would be awesome (to add Essex),” McFarland said. “The majority said they were a little scared at first, but it didn’t take them long to feel a part of this team. They have mixed in really well with us. It feels like they’ve been with us since kindergarten.”

Some of the standouts for this year’s team include a trio of sophomore pitchers – Kaitlyn Bruce, Elise Dailey and Ali Silvius. The offensive lineup has been led by Silvius, who is hitting .416 and has a team-high 22 stolen bases. Eighth graders Marleigh Johnson and Jenna Stephens and sophomores Sami York and Brooklyn Adams also sport batting averages above .300.

Other lineup regulars are senior Shelby Brockshus, juniors Devin Isaacson and Kami Tibben and sophomore Hope Ogletree.

In their regional first round opening win over Southwest Valley on Monday, Dailey scattered 11 hits and allowed just three earned runs in getting the win in the circle. Meanwhile, Silvius had two hits and scored twice, and York added a pair of hits and an RBI. Tibben pitched in a strong night with a hit and two RBI.

“We kind of struggled at the beginning,” McFarland said. “We had some errors we weren’t real happy about. We felt there were some plays we could have made, but I did like the way we bounced back and kept our composure. We just fought back, got hot with the bats and it just kind of trickled down from there.”

The Viqueens will take on a red hot Murray squad in a 1A regional quarterfinal at Lenox tonight. The Mustangs, in the final season of Coach Danny Jensen’s successful 40-year career, have won 19 of their last 21, including a 13-1 victory over East Mills on Monday.

“We’re expecting to see a very solid team,” Coach Stephens said. “I think our plan is to go in there and play our game. Do what we can do and have fun doing it. We’ve focused on our batting this week. We know they have some amazing pitchers, but we’re just going to go in and focus on what we can do.”

Stanton/Murray is game one of a doubleheader in Lenox tonight and will start at 5:30. Fremont-Mills/Lenox follows at approximately 7:30. Listen to the complete interview with Coaches McFarland and Stephens below.