Experience at Hummer’s a bummer for Bears
by Rick Nichols
I left Topeka’s Hummer Sports Complex with a “souvenir” last Thursday evening: a small red mark on the back of my right hand consisting of the letters “THUR” (for Thursday) surrounded by a circle. The only trouble is, the girls I’d come to watch, the members of the Oskaloosa High School softball team, left the site with tears in their eyes, their hopes for a state championship dashed, meaning I wouldn’t be returning to the capital city the next day to get another “souvenir” so I could see the Bears play two more games.
A dream shared by Coach Lisa Braun and her 23 players died on Patty Dick Softball Field a week ago when Oskaloosa fell to the Lions of Lyons High School/Chase High School 3-1 in the opening round of the Class 3A State Tournament. The defeat was the first of the season for the top-seeded Bears, who finished the year with 23 victories, among them come-from-behind wins against McLouth, a Class 2-1A state tournament team, and Atchison during the regular season and Hiawatha and Marysville in regional tournament action.
“We had a terrific year,” Braun told the paper Monday morning. “We broke many school records, including most wins in a season and most home runs in a season.”
Fortunately for me, my “souvenir” was gone by the time I took my Saturday night bath, but for Braun and her girls the tear-triggering emotional pain brought on by their first-round loss seems likely to linger at least for a while. After all, this was a game they could’ve won had they made some plays in the field they didn’t make or come up with a clutch hit here and there.
Yes, it’s a game of inches, as they say, but it can be a cruel game just the same. Needing a strikeout to match the 10 K’s already recorded by the Lions’ Aubrey Hollinger and send the contest to the bottom of the seventh inning tied 1-1, Haidyn Bassett couldn’t quite get her fastball past Lauren Barker, who put a late swing on the offering and was able to line it into right field within just a few feet of the foul line for a single, scoring two runs. Haidyn retired the next batter on a grounder to the first baseman, but by then the damage was done.
Maddy Miller, who had already delivered an RBI triple in the fourth inning to pull the Bears even with the Lions, gave Oskaloosa fans just what they were hoping for when she came through with a double to lead off the bottom of the seventh. She reached third on a wild pitch after the next two hitters had popped out, but that was as far as she got and her team needed two runs anyway just to extend the game. A ground ball to the shortstop brought the contest to a close, setting off a celebration among the Lions and their supporters.
“Making the jump to 3A was going to be hard – we knew that coming in – but I’m very proud of them (the players) for making it to the state tournament,” Braun remarked. “With everyone returning, I expect even more next year.”
Entering the game at 16-7 on the season, the Lions threatened to score in each of the first three innings, stranding two runners in the first, three in the second and one in scoring position in the third before finally breaking through in the top of the fourth.
Aided by two errors in the outfield, the Lions used three hits, including one by Brenna McClure with a runner at third, to push across a run and put themselves in a position to have a big inning. But two outstanding defensive plays kept them from increasing their lead, the first occurring when a runner was cut down at the plate attempting to score on a grounder to the third baseman and the second when a runner was thrown out at third trying to go from first to third on a single.
With one out in the bottom of the inning Bree Brooks picked up a single and was replaced on first by Mattie Molder. Maddy Miller then drilled a triple into right center field to score Mattie but had to remain at third when the next batter went down on strikes and the following batter popped out, thus preventing the Bears from going up 2-1.
The Lions went quietly in the fifth but threatened again in the sixth, using two hits, one of the infield variety, to place runners on first and second. But Haidyn Bassett was able to fan the next Lion to keep the game tied.
Two errors, the fifth and sixth of the contest for Oskaloosa, set the stage for what proved to be the game-winning hit. The Bears looked like they were possibly going to escape damage when a Lion, bunting with one out and runners on second and third, was unable to advance the runners. But Lauren Barker managed to pick up her teammate when she swung at the ball just in time to make contact with a Haidyn Bassett “heater,” poking it into right field to drive in the runs.
Oskaloosa was held to only five hits by the Lions’ hurler, who didn’t issue a walk or hit a batter. Lyons/Chase came up with eight hits against the Bears’ pitcher, who also surrendered a walk and hit two batters.
The Lions were charged with one error.
Had the Bears been able to avoid the upset, they would’ve faced the winner of the game between fourth-seeded Cheney High School and fifth-seeded Riverton High School in the semifinals, with a chance to go to the championship game on the line. And even if they’d advanced to the second round and lost Friday morning, they still would’ve had an opportunity to play for third place later in the day.
The Rams of Riverton edged Cheney 4-3 in first-round play and were joined in the second round by second-seeded Humboldt High School, a 4-1 winner over seventh-seeded Minneapolis High School, and third-seeded Silver Lake High School, a 6-3 winner over sixth-seeded Haven High School, in addition to the Lions.
The final score for both semifinal contests was 3-1, with Riverton prevailing over Lyons/Chase and Silver Lake getting past undefeated Humboldt in eight innings.
In the title game, the Eagles of Silver Lake topped Riverton 3-2 to successfully defend their state championship.
Short URL: http://www.jeffcountynews.com/?p=14968