With four area Class 5A teams in the state softball tournament, Bishop Carroll coach Steve Harshberger issued a pregame challenge Thursday.
“I told them I wanted to be the last (area) team standing,” he said.
When Carroll's game started, both Maize South and Goddard had already been ousted, and the Golden Eagles completed their job, using an 11-run third inning to eliminate Eisenhower 16-2 in a game shortened to five innings by the run rule.
With the win, second-seeded Carroll advances to Friday’s second semifinal against No. 3 Seaman (20-3), which beat No. 6 St. Thomas Aquinas (15-7), 12-2, in a six-inning run-rule game.
Carroll (21-2) had 14 hits in its game. Junior Hadley Kerschen spearheaded the attack with a 4-for-4 day (three singles and a double). Junior Kaylin Watkins and senior Emma Henning contributed three hits each, and junior Allyssa Vonfeldt had a single and a double with three RBI.
Meanwhile, Eisenhower (14-9) managed six hits off sophomore starting pitcher Reagan Smith in 3 2/3 innings, backed by Watkins’ one-hit relief effort.
In the third inning, Kerschen opened with a single. Izzy Marcotte’s sacrifice was mishandled by the Eisenhower catcher, allowing Kerschen to score and give Carroll a 3-1 lead. Watkins walked on four pitches, then Vonfeldt singled in Marcotte. Henning’s double was followed by walks to Ryleigh Chaffin and Bryant Peppard, and the Tigers’ second error of the inning allowed Kennedee Lara to reach. Emma Green and Kerschen singled. One out later, Watkins singled, Vonfeldt doubled and Henning singled for her second RBI of the inning. When the Tigers were able to finally retire the side, 11 runs had scored on nine hits, helped by three walks and two errors. Carroll had a 13-2 lead it would not surrender.
“We had a couple hits where the ball dropped in, we read them right, and we were moving,” Harshberger said. “So, we gained a base or two that way. Bases loaded, we put down a drag, and I figured my runner was fast enough. They went to first and overthrew. That kind of helped continue things. Our kids executed (Thursday). We’ll take it any time they can do that.”
Kerschen was unstoppable.
“That was exciting,” she said. “(Thursday) was for a goal, so that was awesome.”
Watkins saw her two-way effectiveness at the plate and on the mound as a sort of vindication.
“In the past, I haven’t had the best state (opening game),” she said. “It felt good to come in and feel different this year.”
Henning said she was comfortable calling the game.
“I was confident that (the pitchers) are going to hit their spots,” she said. “It worked out for us (Thursday).”
In her 3 2/3 innings of work, Smith had five strikeouts, including fanning the side in the second, all looking.
“I felt really good coming into it, and it just worked out for me,” Smith said.
A backing of 16 runs doesn’t hurt, either.
“It helps a lot,” Smith said.