By BRETT MARSHALL
Western Athletic Conference
When Abby Gillan resumed her coaching duties for softball at Hays High School in the 2022 season, her goal was quite simple – return the Lady Indians to prominence in the Western Athletic Conference and also be competitive in the Class 5A postseason playoffs.
Consider that she has accomplished most of those goals in two short seasons as she guided the Indians to an 11-1 WAC record that was good enough for a one-game advantage over two-time defending champion Garden City.
Overall, the Lady Indians compiled a 15-6 record only to have their postseason ended prematurely with a loss to WAC rival Great Bend in the regional semifinals. The Indians had swept the Lady Panthers in the three regular-season match-ups.
“I think when I came back, I set the same expectations that I had with the program before,” said Gillan, who in her first tenure at the helm coached from 2009 to 2015, before taking a break.
The Lady Indians had last won the WAC in 2011 during Gillan’s first time around.
“I think not settling for less is a huge key to success and having a summer program that develops players and builds on that success you have during the spring is one of the keys,” Gillan said.
Gillan said that while she still sets high standards for her players as well as herself, she’s more laid back in her second go-around as a coach.
“The kids still work hard and put time into it,” she said. “But I think I enjoy watching the kids grow. Having a young and talented group, they’re just good players, and I see them getting better and better.”
Gillan’s team accomplished these goals with a mostly underclassmen group of players, led by junior pitcher Aubree Thomas and sophomore Riley Dreher.
Thomas compiled an 11-3 won-loss record while pitching 93.1 innings. She struck out 111 and walked just 24 batters. Her earned-run-average was a solid 2.25. Dreher, who is the No. 2 pitcher and also plays second base (Thomas is in centerfield when not on the mound), batted .521 with 37 hits and 29 RBIs while Thomas had 35 hits and averaged .486. The team’s defense had a .911 average for the 21-game schedule.
2023 First Team All-WAC Team
Brie Manwarren, Sr., P, Garden City
Aubree Thomas, Jr., P, Hays
Riley Dreher, So., IF, Hays
DeShawnna Bryant, So., OF, Great Bend
Piper Harris, So., INF, Garden City
Paige Thexton, Jr., P/INF, Great Bend
Dezarae Schmidt, Jr.,, INF, Hays
Emma Ortiz, Jr., INF, Garden City
Zoey Torres, So., INF, Liberal
Player of the Year: Brie Manwarren, Garden City
Coach of the Year: Abby Gillan, Hays
2023 Second Team All-WAC Team
Lakyn Zimmerman, Jr., INF, Hays
Jenna Ormiston, Sr., P, Liberal
Tatum Steiner, So., C, Dodge City
Kamryn Foster, Sr., C, Garden City
Ashlyn Zimmer, Sr., INF/OF, Hays
Alyssa McCauley, Fr., P, Great Bend
Lexi Miller, So., INF, Liberal
Katherine Mazouch, Fr., OF, Great Bend
Taylor Harding, So., INF, Liberal