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Bears softball team state runnerup; loses heartbreaker in 11th inning

Oskaloosa Softball Team Runner Up

Disappointed team members of the Oskaloosa Bears softball team await the awarding of the second place plaque.

 

by Rick Nichols
The second-seeded Rams of Riverton High School proved to be just that, ‘ram tough,’ on Saturday at the Twin Oaks Complex in Manhattan, outlasting the fourth-seeded Oskaloosa Bears 2-0 in 11 innings – that’s right, 11 innings – to win the Class 3A State Softball Tournament.
“I’m so proud of this team,” head coach Lisa Braun told the paper Monday in an email. “They came together at the right time, with the right goals, and played so well down the stretch. They proved to themselves and to everyone that watched them that they were among the very best softball teams in the state of Kansas.”
In a game passionate softball fans in both Oskaloosa and Riverton will probably be talking about for quite a while, the old maxim “baseball is a game of inches” proved to be ever-so-true for the umpteenth million time – much to the dismay of the Oskie faithful in attendance, but much to the delight of the Cherokee County crowd that was there to cheer for the  blue and black.
Five innings after Oskaloosa third baseman Brylie Bassett came within inches of hitting a home run over the center field fence that would have given the Bears a 1-0 lead with only six outs on defense to go, Riverton pitcher Taylor Compton somehow managed to square up a pitch unleashed by Brylie’s older sister, Haidyn, and sent the ball well beyond that same fence for a game-ending two-run homer.
An inch or two up or down, or in or out, and Haidyn’s offering likely produces something other than a ‘bomb’ off the bat of her counterpart.
Denied in the top of the sixth inning when Riverton’s center fielder hauled in Brylie’s well-hit ball while crashing into the fence, the Bears almost broke the scoreless tie in the 10th when Megan Miller pounded a hard grounder right at the shortstop, who cleanly fielded the ball and immediately threw it to the catcher to narrowly cut down Megan’s older sister, Madison, at the plate.
A few inches off to the right or off to the left and perhaps Megan’s grounder is just enough to bring in the go-ahead run. A few feet in either direction and she probably has a hit and two runs batted in, as Paige Lowe, whose bunt single had moved Madison over to third base, was standing on second at the time, having just stolen the base. Madison had reached second on a one-out double to left center field.
“The championship game was a marathon,” Braun said. “We definitely had our chances to score, but so did they. I’m just so proud of the girls for never giving up, never getting too frustrated, never losing hope. I told the girls that there was no one at this tournament better than us this weekend. Riverton was certainly as good as us, but not better. It took 11 innings for them to win.”
Haidyn Bassett went the distance for the Bears, striking out 17 Ram batters in her final game on the high school level. She gave up five hits – four singles and the homer – issued two walks and hit three batters.
The team came up with two outstanding defensive plays in support of Haidyn’s efforts on the mound. In the first, catcher Madison Miller threw out a runner who was trying to steal third, and in the sixth, right fielder Brittni Pryor robbed a Ram of a likely double when she ran down a well-struck line drive headed for the right center field gap.
Both teams entered the contest with a record of 23-2, so Oskaloosa finishes the season at 23-3.
Rain last Thursday prevented the eight-team tournament from getting underway that day as scheduled, so the Bears had to wait a day to play their first round opponent, Lyons High School.

Lyons vs. Oskaloosa
The Bears made the fifth-seeded Lions pay for upsetting them in the opening round of the 2014 state tournament by soundly defeating them 11-1 in one of Friday’s first round games.
Oskaloosa never trailed in the contest, which was called after four and a half innings because of the run rule. The team scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning to take an early lead and then hit the Lions with a “nine spot” in the third to basically put the game away.
Haidyn Bassett pitched three innings for the Bears and was credited with the victory. She struck out five batters while handing out only one walk.
Raegen Hamm finished the game, tossing a scoreless fourth inning before surrendering a run in the fifth. She recorded three strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
In the first, Tomi-Lyn Hickman drew a walk, stole second base, advanced to third on Brylie Bassett’s ground ball out to the second baseman, and came home on an infield single by Haidyn Bassett. A passed ball allowed Haidyn to reach second, then Paige Lowe delivered a two-out double to drive her in, putting Oskaloosa on top 2-0.
In the third, Tomi-Lyn Hickman led off with a bunt single and advanced to second base when Brylie Bassett slapped a grounder to the shortstop and the second baseman dropped the ball in trying to record a force out at second. Haidyn Bassett then smacked a double down the left field line, scoring Tomi-Lyn and sending Brylie to third. The next batter, Madison Miller, safely reached first when her ground ball to the shortstop resulted in a throw home to keep Brylie at third, which brought Paige Lowe to the plate with the bases loaded. She responded by driving in Brylie and Haidyn with a single. Megan Miller followed with another single, bringing in Madison, and she went to second on the throw home, with Paige winding up at third.
With runners at second and third, Raegen Hamm sent a ground ball in the direction of the shortshop, but the first baseman was unable to handle her teammate’s errant throw and the ball skipped past her, allowing two runs to score and Raegen to make it to second on the play.
The next batter, Jaden Courter, faced a new pitcher when she came to the plate and managed to coax a walk out of her. After Raegen stole third and Jaden second on separate plays, Tomi-Lyn managed to work the pitcher for another walk to load the bases. That brought Brylie to the plate, and she picked up a run batted in without ever putting the bat on the ball when she was hit by an off-target pitch.
The eighth and ninth runs of the  inning scored when the shortshop could not stop Madison’s sharply hit ground ball right at her, enabling Jaden and Tomi-Lyn to cross the plate.
Having prevailed over the Lions, Oskaloosa moved on to face its next opponent, Gypsum’s Southeast of Saline High School.

Oskaloosa vs. S.E. of Saline
The Bears hammered the top-seeded Trojans 10-1 in semifinal action Friday afternoon to earn the right to take on Riverton, an 11-1 winner over Wellsville in the other second round game, in the battle for the state championship.
Once again, Oskaloosa never trailed in the contest, coming up with two runs in the top of the first inning and tallying eight more over the next four innings to establish a fairly comfortable edge heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Haidyn Bassett went the distance to notch the victory, her second of the tournament. She fanned 13 batters along the way and did not issue a walk. She gave up only five hits, two of which came in the first, when Southeast of Saline used a single, a passed ball and then a second single to plate a run.
The Bears got on the scoreboard in the first when Brylie Bassett drew a walk, then Haidyn Bassett drilled a home run over the left field fence.
In the second, singles by Megan Miller, Raegen Hamm and Jaden Courter loaded the bases with no outs and also forced Southeast of Saline’s manager to change pitchers. After Brittni Pryor went down on strikes, Tomi-Lyn Hickman delivered a single into right field to knock in Megan and Raegen.
In the third, Haidyn Bassett led off with a single and moved to second base on a passed ball. After Madison Miller received a walk, both runners advanced 90 feet on another passed ball, giving Paige Lowe a chance to drive in two. Her groundout to the second baseman brought Haidyn home and sent Madison to third, and she came in shortly later when the pitcher uncorked a wild pitch.
The Bears added a run in the fourth to go up by a score of 7-1. With one out, Tomi-Lyn Hickman picked up a bunt single and advanced to second base on the play when the throw to first was wide of the mark. She then proceeded to steal third, which put her in a position to score on Brylie Bassett’s sacrifice fly to the right fielder.
The Bears got their eighth run when Paige Lowe walked to lead off the fifth, moved to second base on Raegen Hamm’s single to center and came home on Jaden Courter’s one-out double. With runners on second and third, Brittni Pryor grounded out to the pitcher, but Tomi-Lyn Hickman picked her teammate up by smacking a single to drive in Raegen and Jaden.
For Oskaloosa, the defensive play of the game occurred when Madison Miller threw out a Trojan runner who was attempting to steal second base.
“I told the girls that seeds don’t mean anything in the state tournament,” Braun said. “It doesn’t matter if we are the number 1 or the number eight … everyone is great and everyone beat somebody great to be there. I sure didn’t expect to run-rule Lyons or beat SES by nine runs, though. We played with such confidence and poise in each of those games. We took advantage of what they gave us and didn’t try to do too much. After we made it to the title game, I told the girls that the rest was truly all just ‘gravy.’”

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Posted by on Jun 16 2016. Filed under Featured, The Independent. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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