Olathe South returned to the Class 6A softball tournament for a three-peat bid with a group of starters who’d barely seen the field during the last two postseason runs.
The Falcons’ inexperience shone through on several occasions Thursday night, including when an excess of aggression from shortstop Abby Ward gave way to Derby’s game-tying fifth run in the top of the seventh inning.
But inexperience didn’t matter when sophomore Maddie Swanson, who’d recently moved into the second spot in the batting order, roped a two-out double in the 10th inning of the quarterfinals at Arrocha Ballpark. As the ball scooted down the left field line, South coach Mike Allen waved Abby Allen home and the Falcons flung themselves out of the dugout. The final run lit up the scoreboard in a 6-5 walkoff victory.
“She is an improving player all year long. She batted lower in the lineup but I moved her up because she can bunt,” Allen said. “For her to come through with a hit like this is going to give her even more confidence going into tomorrow’s game. ... You could tell tonight, as least I could as a coach, this moment is a little too big for some of these kids. But now that the moment’s gone, when we play somebody else on the second day of the big stage, hopefully they can settle in for another game.”
Olathe South’s bid to build a dynasty continues Friday at 1 p.m., when the Falcons (18-5) play Olathe East in the semifinals.
Derby had almost knocked Olathe South off its throne when, with a runner on second and two outs, Addison Parks chopped an infield hit into the dirt. Olathe South shortstop Abby Ward charged the ball, trying to field it even as a runner passed her by. The throw sailed, and Derby tied the game on the error.
The Panthers were unable to drive in Parks and never got back on base, their next nine hitters sent down in order. They kept their spirits up in the bottom of the eight when Abby Allen strayed too far off the bag at third on a flyout to shortstop Madi Young. Young immediately whipped a throw to Parks, trying to catch Allen in a rundown. Parks threw home to Tatum Haney, who applied the tag for the inning-ending double play.
Derby had squandered a 4-1 lead in the third inning, allowing Olathe South to plate three runs, two of them on a Morgan Kern hit to shallow center field.
In the fourth, Derby third baseman Parks made an awkward throw that Kiya McManus, who’d pitched the first three innings, was unable to scoop for the final out of the inning. The ball skirted into foul territory, and Casey Shell scored from second for a 5-4 Olathe South lead.
Olathe South pitcher Maryssa Rollin, a junior and one of few Falcons on the roster who saw significant playing time last year, struck out seven and allowed 11 hits in 10 innings. Catcher Casey Shell went 3 for 5 with two runs and a walk.
Derby’s McManus was 3 for 4 with a double and two runs. She was charged with four runs on five hits and one strikeout.
▪ Olathe East 12, Olathe North 2 (5 innings): Olathe North (12-11) looked like it would keep Olathe East within striking distance, especially once second baseman Alyssa Jano started the play of the game on a backhand pick. First baseman Lexi Hodapp stretched out, holding the bag, to take Jano’s throw and retire the first batter of the fourth inning.
But that gem was the only one North’s defense was able to produce in the frame. On the next play, Hodapp couldn’t make a routine out at first, the ball shuttling into foul territory as Elise Byers burned a path to third base. Byers scored without a throw on a shallow single to center field, giving Olathe East a 7-2 advantage. East added three more runs in the inning.
Then with the help of two more defensive miscues from North in the fifth, freshman Kathryn Henneking capped East’s run-rule victory with an RBI single to left field.
East (19-4) will play Olathe South in the semifinal at 1 p.m. on Friday.
▪ Olathe Northwest 6, Haysville-Campus 5: It should have been smooth sailing for Olathe Northwest (22-1) in the quarterfinals. The team that came in with a single loss, outscoring opponents at a high clip and having allowed just two runs during regional play last week, stayed calm cool through six innings. Even when starter Natalie Hamm allowed two singles in between a pair of walks in the third inning, Northwest limited the damage to one run.
But with a 6-1 lead and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, reliever Aubree Herrin struggled. She gave up three straight hits to Campus, one of them an RBI double to Raegan Swink, who had an RBI single in the third. Then Northwest third baseman Loren Beggs misplayed a ball that dribbled into short left field, giving way to two more runs and shortening the Ravens’ lead to 6-4.
Two more Campus (10-11) batters got on base before Ariel Williams struck out to end the game.
Olathe Northwest’s Shayna Espy was 2 for 2 with 3 RBIs, a home run, a walk and two runs scored.
▪ Garden City 10, Blue Valley 0: Garden City kept Blue Valley (17-6) starter Grace Garcia on the mound nearly 25 minutes in the first inning but only scored two runs on one hit in the frame.
That said, Garden City’s pitcher was nearly untouchable through the first four innings. Garcia coaxed a third-inning double but the rest of Blue Valley’s lineup only got on base by waiting out Abbie Dart’s erraticism, earning three walks. Sophomore Paige Robins, who stole a base and was hit by a pitch in the first, got Blue Valley’s only other hit of the game.
Garcia was charged with eight runs, five of which crossed the plate in the fifth.
Garden City (18-5) will play Olathe Northwest in the semifinals at 11 a.m on Friday.
Class 4A-Division 1
▪ Spring Hill 7, Andale-Garden Plain 0: Spring Hill started slowly but eventually kicked its offense into high gear, and rode the two-hit pitching of senior Sarah Brown for a shutout at the Class 4A-I softball tournament in Salina.
The defending state champion Broncos (19-4) were stifled early by Andale-Garden Plain (17-6) but made the most of their seven hits, including a double and home run from senior first baseman Kelsey Kroutch.
“The time before, I thought I had hit a home run, but the fence is shorter at our home field, so it felt like it was over, but it was actually a double,” Kroutch said. “So when I came up, I remembered the feeling and took the same swing, and it went over.”
Broncos coach Shelly Huber said the hitting became contagious.
“They just started hitting, and they thought they could — and they did,” coach Shelly Huber said.
Brown yielded just singles in the Bailey Bugner in the second and Peyton Chavez in the fifth.
No. 4 Spring Hill will face top-seeded Independence (20-1) in Friday’s semifinals. The Bulldogs edged Wamego, 3-2, in their opener.
▪ Piper 9, Andover Central 8: Third-seeded Piper down to its final out in the bottom of the seventh trailing 6-5 Thursday, but a hit batsman, a walk and set the stage for freshman Grace Karnes’ RBI single.
The Pirates (21-2) then spotted Andover Central two more runs in the top of the eighth but answered with three in the bottom of the inning to win 9-8.
Andover Central, which had clinched its state berth when it rallied for 12 runs in the top of the seventh in the regional final against Circle, took the offensive this time around.
The Jaguars (16-7) scored four in the first and two in the second. Piper managed one in its first and two in its second, then pulled to within 6-5 with two in the fourth.
In the eighth, the Jaguars led 8-6. But a hit batsman, a critical error — Andover Central had been error-free until the seventh — and three singles, including Alexis Rymer’s game-winner, helped the Pirates advance.
Lionel Tipton, Wichita Eagle correspondent