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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Local softball recruits accepting of change

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There will be no fallout from the Tracy Bunge resignation from the Kansas University softball program like there was for Memphis when men’s basketball coach John Calipari bolted for Kentucky. At least not at the local level.

Although Bunge no longer will wear crimson and blue, a trio of high school seniors she signed from the area remain fully committed to joining the KU program.

Local high school products Rosie and Maggie Hull, of Free State High, and McLouth High catcher Kendall Patterson said they were caught off guard by Bunge’s retirement announcement on Friday. But all three reiterated their passion for the KU program Saturday afternoon.

“I’m going to miss coach Bunge a lot,” Patterson said. “She was almost like family to me. But I’m still excited to play softball for KU and I’m looking forward to helping the Jayhawks win some championships in the future.”

Patterson’s sentiments were shared by the Hull twins, who both said they signed with KU last fall because of their lifelong desire to be Jayhawks and not just to play for Bunge.

“We chose KU because it’s a really good school and we’re excited to wear the Jayhawk uniform,” Maggie Hull said. “I was shocked at first, but then when I sat down and thought about it, I could see the reasoning behind coach Bunge’s decision and I definitely wish her the best of luck in whatever she chooses to do. I respect her for her decision, I don’t feel betrayed on any personal level.”

The Hull twins have been fixtures in the Free State outfield since their sophomore seasons. That year, Maggie Hull earned all-state honors and both players received all-Sunflower League nods. This year, they’ve helped the Firebirds to a 7-7 start and have their eyes fixed on making a run at the Class 6A state tournament.

Patterson, meanwhile, has enjoyed one of the all-time great high school careers in state history.

Overshadowed at times because of the small enrollment of Class 3A McLouth High, Patterson has been a four-year starter at catcher for the Bulldogs and has led the team in multiple offensive categories each season.

She currently sits just two hits away from tying the state’s career hits record (147) and also is on pace to set state records for career doubles and career batting average.

Throughout their recruitment, the Hull twins and Patterson became close friends on and off the field. It was that bond, Rosie Hull said, that helped them, as well as several other members of next season’s freshman class, stay excited about joining the Jayhawks in the wake of Bunge’s announcement.

“I think that’s one thing that really kept us all wanting to go to KU no matter what,” said Rosie Hull, who joined Maggie in reaching out to all of the KU softball signees shortly after hearing the news. “We all are just really looking forward to playing together and to playing for KU.

“In a sense, it’s kind of exciting because we’ll be starting our careers with a new coach and we can help set the tone for the new era of KU softball.”

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