Oskaloosa, McLouth softball statebound
Undefeated Bears making 3rd trip to state; will start play Thursday in Topeka
by Brian Janus
and Rick Nichols
For the third year in a row the Oskaloosa Bears have won the regional softball championship and are again headed to the state tournament with yet another perfect record.
Now 23-0, the Bears are slated to battle the Lions of Lyons-Chase High School (16-7) at 5 p.m. Thursday on Field “A” at Hummer Sports Complex, 501 Center Circle Drive, in Topeka. Oskaloosa will enter the tournament as the top seed in the field.
This season the Oskaloosa school district was moved up from Class 2-1A to 3A competition, but nevertheless the outcome for the Bears remained unchanged — an undefeated season and a return trip to the state tournament.
That’s not to say though, that the Bears have had an easy time of it all season. In fact, there were a few key games where the Bears found themselves with their backs against the wall late in some tough situations before scratching out a win.
The first scare happened against Atchison High School, when the girls were down 7-2, and then came back in the last two innings to score 10 runs and win the game 12-7.
In a couple of other tough battles, the girls were down late in both doubleheader games with McLouth, where the they eventually persevered to claw their way to a two-game sweep of the now Class 2-1A regional champion Bulldogs. The Bears’ two regional games against Hiawatha and Marysville also ended in a similar hard-fought fashion, as the girls went on to win the 3A regional championship in Marysville.
“The girls have battled through adversity all season long,” Coach Lisa Braun said last week following the team’s run to the regional title. “We came back against Atchison High School and McLouth, and this past tournament against Hiawatha and Marysville. The ‘Comeback Kids’ are the winningest team in Oskaloosa High School history, surpassing last year’s mark of 20 wins.”
In their first game of the regional tournament last week, the Bears faced the Hiawatha Red Hawks after earning a first-round bye for having the best record (20-0) and receiving the top seed.
After a slow start and two and a half scoreless innings, the Bears were first to get on base.
Shyan Wright started off the hitting with a hard hit ground ball single to right field. Wright then stole second base and was eventually moved to third after a sacrifice ground out by Michaeleene Kesinger. After a wild pitch, Wright reached home and the Bears took the early 1-0 lead.
The Bears added another run to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning after Haidyn Bassett singled with a hard ground ball to second base to bring home a runner on third base. Things appeared to begin to unravel for the Bears after they got into trouble in the top of the sixth inning after a walk, a single, and a sacrifice bunt by the Red Hawks loaded the bases with no outs.
By the end of the inning, the Red Hawks had added four runs of their own to the board and had taken a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.
The bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh innings came and went with the score remaining 4-2 in Hiawatha’s favor. In their last chance at the plate, in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bears started things off by reaching first base on an error after Kesinger hit a ground ball to second base. After a runner substitution at first, Brittni Pryor came in and managed to steal second base for Oskaloosa. Hickman then hit a ground ball single to the shortstop and advanced Pryor to third.
Haidyn Bassett hit a single to center field driving in Pryor and bringing the Bears within one run and the score to 4-3 and advancing Hickman to third base. Hickman scored on the next play tying the score at 4. Raegen Hamm drove in the winning run after driving Bassett home with a hard ground ball to center, bringing the final score to 5-4 for a Bears’ victory.
In the championship game, the Bears were matched up with the Marysville Bulldogs. The Bears were first to score in the bottom of the first inning after Bassett reached home on a wild pitch. The Bulldogs retook the lead in the bottom of the third inning, scoring two runs and bringing the score to 2-1, where the score remained for the next three innings.
In the top of the sixth inning, Marysville scored their final run of the game after Megan Skeen hit an RBI single driving in the runner at third base, adding an insurance run and bringing the score to 3-1.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Bears had runners Bassett at second base and Hickman at third, when Brianna Brooks hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Hickman and bringing the Bears within one run for a score of 3-2 heading into the final inning.
After the Bulldogs went 3 up 3 down in the top of the seventh inning, the Bears came back to the plate for their final at bat with their season and the regional championship on the line down one run. Just as they have done all season long, the Bears kept their poise and confidence and never gave up.
Maddy Miller started things off in the final inning with a line drive double to center field. Rachel Harding then tied the game by driving home Miller with a fly ball to center field, bringing the score to 3-3.
Erika Lopez reached first base due to a catcher’s interference call and after Tomi-Lyn Hickman hit an RBI line drive single to center field, Harding scored and the Bears won the game and the championship, 4-3.
Although Braun teaches mathematics and not chemistry at OHS, the coach of the Bears is particularly pleased with the “chemistry” of her team as she eyes another shot at that elusive state title. “I’m most proud of how the girls are playing together as a team,” she commented. “They stay positive and never, ever, ever give up. They continue to show just how tough, confident, and determined they are. They each know their role and are committed to performing at their best. As a coach, you cannot ask for more.”
If the Bears can avoid being upset by the eighth-seeded Lions, they next will play the winner of the first-round game between Cheney (21-2), the fourth seed, and Riverton (20-3), the fifth seed. The semifinal contest is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday on Field “B”.
The other half of the bracket is comprised of Humboldt (23-0), the second seed, Minneapolis (17-6), the seventh seed, Haven (19-4), the sixth seed, and the defending state champion, third-seeded Silver Lake (22-1).
The championship game is set for 2 p.m. Friday on Field “A”.
Braun looks for the state tournament to be “crazy tough this year” because the field includes “so many powerful teams” that have excellent hitting and pitching and play solid defense. “We will have to continue to perform at our best to do well there,” she remarked. “With the support of our school and community, we won’t be satisfied with anything but three more wins!”
Experienced coach taking young team to 2A state tournament Thursday
by Rick Nichols
Clutch hitting. Great pitching. Solid defense. Senior leadership behind the plate. For Ballard Patterson, who has coached the Bulldogs of McLouth High School for the past nine years, all the necessary ingredients to make the 2014 softball season a successful one have been in place from the very beginning and that pretty much explains why the team is headed for the Class 2-1A State Tournament, which begins Thursday in Great Bend.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Patterson said Monday morning. “We’re a very young team. The majority of the starters are sophomores and freshmen.”
Patterson, who has already guided McLouth to four Class 3A state tournaments in compiling a cumulative record of 117-30, firmly believes that the ability of his players to unite as one whenever they are on the diamond has played a key role in the team’s success so far. “They pulled together and we’ve stressed family and playing for each other all year,” he remarked.
The coach is particularly pleased by the way the girls have been swinging the bat since early March, when they began preparing for the season. “They’ve worked really hard on their hitting and we’ve scored more runs this year than we have in the past few years,” he reported.
Singled out for special recognition was Konner Patterson, the coach’s daughter, who enters the state tournament with a batting average that is just under .800. The coach also mentioned Shelby Turner and Bailey Scott, crediting them for having delivered some timely hits here and there over the course of the season.
Patterson described his team’s pitching to date as “fantastic” and had no difficulty referring to the performances of hurlers Shannon Green and Angela Dailey as “amazing.”
Shannon and Angela have been able to go to the mound knowing full well that the fielders behind them would make the plays that needed to be made more often than not. “Our defense has been solid with Dominique Tullis (outfielder), Shannon Brown (shortstop) and Olivia Coulter (second base) up the middle,” Patterson reported.
Last but certainly not least, Amber McCown, the Bulldogs’ catcher and one of only three seniors on the team, was praised by the coach for the “amazing job” she has done in working with the pitchers game after game.
McLouth took an impressive 14-4 mark into last week’s regional tournament in Leavenworth, having been defeated by only Class 3A Oskaloosa, which is unbeaten on the season, and Class 2A rival Valley Falls, which knocked off the visiting Bulldogs in both ends of a doubleheader May 15 to bring the regular season to a close. After a first-round bye, which was officially recorded as a victory, McLouth got Troy in one of two semifinal games May 21 and edged the Trojans 3-2 to move on to the championship contest later in the day. The Bulldogs then went up against Valley Falls and ultimately made the Dragons pay for what had happened six days earlier, emerging with a 5-4 victory to qualify for the state tournament.
At 17-4, sixth-seeded McLouth is scheduled to play third-seeded Hillsboro at 7 tonight (Thursday) on Field “B” at the Great Bend Sports Complex, 41 McKinley Street. The Trojans will take a 21-2 record into the game.
Patterson said the one thing he knows about Hillsboro is that the team has “two strong pitchers.” Aside from that, however, he was basically unfamiliar with both the Trojans and the general level of the competition they have been playing within their league, the Central Kansas League.
At any rate, his approach to today’s game is simple. “We’re going to go as hard as we can to survive and advance.”
Should the Bulldogs take down Hillsboro, they will face the winner of the contest between Brookville’s Ellsworth-Saline (23-0), the second seed in the tournament, and seventh-seeded Spearville (16-7) Friday at 10 a.m. on Field “A”.
In the other half of the bracket are top-seeded Chase County (23-0), eighth-seeded Oswego (15-8), fourth-seeded Udall (20-3), and fifth-seeded Yates Center (19-4). The team from Cottonwood Falls, the Bulldogs, has won the Class 2-1A state title the past two years and carries a winning streak of nearly 70 games into this year’s tournament.
If McLouth’s Bulldogs can get to the championship game and wind up squaring off against Chase County’s Bulldogs, the contest will get underway at 1 p.m. Friday on Field “A”.
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