With the lights turned on and the Blue Valley West faithful sweating and cheering on a humid Thursday night at their home field, Olathe Northwest freshman Halle England knew that her bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning might be a turning point for her Ravens.
“Right before I hit, the crowd was so electric,” England said. “It’s crazy being down there and everybody cheering and then you hit it and everyone is screaming and on their feet.”
That hit allowed the Ravens to gain some confidence against Blue Valley West (15-8) and led to their 12-6 victory in Thursday’s last 6A state quarterfinal.
The key for Olathe Northwest (19-4) was batting around twice in back-to-back innings to blow the game open.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Olathe Northwest coach Mark Mahoney said. “They fought all year long and people stepped up and found ways to win.
What started out as a pitchers’ duel between Blue Valley West’s Perri Downey and Olathe Northwest’s Natalie Hamm quickly changed.
After England’s triple, Northwest continued to score more runs when Hamm helped out her own cause with a double that was launched over the left fielder’s head making it 4-2. The last run came on a sacrifice play by Madison Boland that scored Hamm to make it 5-2.
Following the big inning by Olathe Northwest, the Jaguars got back on the board in the fifth with a two-run double by Kauss to make it 5-4.
After hurting her ankle, Downey stepped up to the plate and hit a single into left field that tied the game back at 5-5.
But Olathe Northwest quickly took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a single and intentional walk. Kukowski singled in O’Bryon to make it 6-5. Hathaway came around to score later in the inning making it 7-5.
Sophomore Madison Bolland added her bases-clearing triple of her own giving the Ravens an 8-5 lead. Later Olathe Northwest scratched out three more runs to extend the lead to 11-5.
“I like how tough they are they don’t quit,” Mahoney said. “They make some mental mistakes and some silly plays, but they give everybody a 100 percent and that’s all you can ask from the kids is to give it their all.”
From there both teams tacked on a few runs. But while batting around again, Olathe Northwest secured its place in the semifinals.
Olathe Northwest plays Topeka Washburn Rural at 1 p.m. Friday.
In the first two quarterfinals, two other Olathe schools secured wins.
Olathe East took home the first victory of the day with a 6-2 win over Derby. For the 23-0 Eagles it came down to clutch hits at the right time.
After leading 1-0 going into the third inning, Olathe East racked up five runs mainly because of two two-run doubles by freshman Hayley McGhee and senior Taylor Officer that extended the lead to 6-2.
“We just got the ball rolling for us,” Olathe East coach Jeff Hulse said. “We got that momentum going. Hitting’s contagious.”
Another major factor for the Eagles was a pitching performance by senior Allison Stewart. She gave up two runs but struck out 11 batters on her way to a complete game.
“I thought I did OK,” Stewart said. “The two runs kind of killed me. I’m so competitive and I’m a perfectionist so any time something goes wrong I just have to compose myself and hope for the best.”
Olathe East is marching on in hopes of another state crown.
And its next opponent will be Olathe South. The shut down the Maize Eagles 4-0 in the second quarterfinal game.
It was all Olathe South. Sophomore Lexi Storrer battled her way to an eight-hit complete game shutout against the No. 5 seeded team in the tournament.
“She did a great job in the circle,” Olathe South coach Michael Allen said. “A lot of three-ball counts, but she barred down in those counts and made some pitches. “
Her six strikeouts helped defeat Maize in a highly contested game. The Eagles had a few chances with multiple runners on base, but just could not get the runs across.
Olathe South (19-4) now has a third chance at Olathe East this season.
“We’ve got to be confident. I think it starts there,” Allen said. “I think a lot of time Olathe East wins the confidence before the game starts, so we’ve got to be confident going into the game.”
The games start at 11 a.m. at Blue Valley West.