Summer is important for Kansas baseball and softball coach Austin Graham in a variety of ways.

Including using the time to merge the incoming freshman with the returning players.

"It lets them see how much faster the high school game is compared to junior high," Graham said. "We need everybody to get to pitch at some point. It gives us more time to let our pitchers get on the mound and others to get the chance to pitch."

The incoming freshman will join a veteran squad that came one game away from the state tournament during the 2016-17 season. 

While the baseball team continues to be in a rebuilding mode, after finding success in 2014 and 2015.

Graham said he wants to get his players on the field as much as possible this summer.

"Both sports are playing two to three times a week all double headers," Graham said. "We got our girls coming in lifting weights and conditioning. The boys are doing it three times a week."

Graham said the time in the gym, as well as the game schedule, is helping his playter get stronger - and better.

Both teams will have 11 dates in June, all double headers, which will add up to 22 games.

"In baseball we are going to have to have some young kids step up and play some for us and pitch," Graham said. "We still are young we will only have two seniors next spring on the field. Lot of juniors with sophomores and freshman mixed in."

The softball team also includes Brittany Brewer, a recent transfer from Siloam Springs (Arkansas) High School.

"This first chance we have gotten to see her play," Graham said. "She is a junior so we will have her for two more years. She will play in the outfield and second base. She will help out."

Graham said he's happy with the dedication his players have shown this summer.

"Softball has been better because all the girls have this summer is basketball so it is not so hard to get them out," Graham said. "Baseball is a little bit different story because they have basketball and football also going on this summer.

"With some of them having work schedules this summer it has made it hit or miss for some of them. But overall it has been good."

Graham said a good summer season should help both teams improve before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

"We definitely have figured out where who needs to play where," Graham said. " That is a big part of it before next season.

"With baseball we know who are one, two, three guys are pitching but we need to find out who we have to come in relief. We have two weeks left of that."

Softball season will roll around first. Baseball will not start back until March 2018.

"Our first official softball practice for the new season will be the last Monday in July [July 24) and we will practice the last two weeks of July for both junior high and high school," Graham said. "We will have some scrimmages after that before the season begins."

Graham said his summer goal includes helping his softball team develop a depth in its pitching - beyond the team's primary pitcher Kaylee Armbrister.

"We are trying to find who our number two and three on the mound will be," Graham said. "Kelsey Guthrie has come on and will be our number two pitcher. She has really come on and learned how to spin it a little bit.

Ashlyn Bird has become our number three girl on the mound and will help us out a lot."

Graham believes he has an advantage going into the season.

"Having a veteran squad has helped," Graham said. "Last year we made it to the regional finals and the state tournament the two previous years.

"So that is what we want is get a good draw for the regionals and go to the state tournament."

The team will scrimmage Lincoln Christian on July 28, Tahlequah July 31 and Ketchum on August 5. They open the season when they host Salina on August 7.

A Look Ahead

Kansas Summer Fast Pitch Softball Schedule

June 15 - Wagoner - Away- 10:15 a.m.

June 20 - Coweta - Away - 5 p.m.

June 22 - Muskogee -Away - 10:15 a.m.

June 27 - Verdigris - Away - 11:30 a.m.

June 29 - Haskell - Away - 10:15 a.m.

Kansas Summer Baseball Schedule

June 14 - Westville - Home - Noon

June 16 - Ketchum - Away - 5 p.m.

June 19 - Adair - Away - 5 p.m.

June 21 - Westville - Away - Noon

June 26 - Keys - Away - 5 p.m.

June 30 - Stilwell - Home - 5 p.m.

Kansas 2017 Fast Pitch Softball Dates

July 24 - First day of practice high school and junior high.

July 28 - Lincoln Christian (scrimmage) - Home - 4:30 p.m.

July 31 - Tahlequah (scrimmage) - Away - 4 p.m.

August 5 - Ketchum - Home - 10 a.m.

August 7 = Salina (season opener) - 4:30 p.m.