The day started with a team breakfast, some music, a game of Hacky Sack and a little batting practice.
It ended just like the previous two high school softball seasons — with Bishop Carroll raising the Class 5A championship trophy.
The Eagles sent coach Angie Dal Pozzo out in style Friday, defeating Mill Valley 5-0 in the title game at Two Rivers Youth Complex behind junior Jessi Haffner’s two-hitter and three RBIs from sophomore catcher Lauren Buchanan.
Carroll, the No. 1 seed, completed its third consecutive 23-2 season under Dal Pozzo, who will step down after four years as coach due to time demands with her job at Spirit AeroSystems and an upcoming wedding.
“Sad enough, it’s just time,” Dal Pozzo said. “Things are getting more and more hectic.”
After a hard-fought 1-0 victory over eighth-seeded Bishop Miege in Thursday’s quarterfinals, Carroll flexed its muscle in an 8-1 semifinal victory over Maize South and the shutout of Mill Valley. The Eagles hit three home runs during a pair of four-run innings against Maize South. In the championship, three of their 10 hits were doubles.
“Once we got started, we didn’t stop,” said Buchanan, who went 3 for 4 with a double in the final.
Dal Pozzo tinkered with her batting order on the season’s final day, moving junior speedster Hunter Hogan from sixth to second. The switch worked brilliantly, as Hogan, a center fielder, homered and scored twice in the semifinal, then scored on each of Buchanan’s hits in the championship.
“We decided to shake things up and see if we could manufacture some more runs, and it happened to work,” Dal Pozzo said. “You’re either a hero or a goat, and fortunately, it worked out for us.”
Not that the Eagles needed much offense for Haffner, who improved to 3-0 as a starter in championship games. Haffner took a no-hitter into the sixth against Mill Valley before Alexa Schriner looped a check swing over Carroll third baseman Kasey Jansen for a single.
“Being on the mound, I kind of feel like everybody looks to me for leadership,” said Haffner, whose title-game resume includes victories over Blue Valley as a freshman and St. Thomas Aquinas as a sophomore. “I figure if I play relaxed, everybody else is going to play relaxed.”
Mill Valley (19-5), which reached the final with a 5-2 victory over Goddard, struck out eight times against Haffner and did not get a runner past second base.
“We had to put the ball in play and we didn’t do that,” Mill Valley coach Sarah Haub said. “I’m really proud of the kids for working through that first game and getting to this point. There’s nothing wrong with second in Kansas.”
Especially given Carroll’s current run. The Eagles will lose six seniors along with their coach, but Buchanan, Haffner and Hogan are among those who will be back for another 5A title bid.
“It’s tough to walk away, but there’s a good tradition at Bishop Carroll,” Dal Pozzo said. “The tradition lies with them. It’s not with me. It’s how they carry themselves and how they want to win.
“Regardless of the coach, they’re going to be successful because they want to be.”
Third place: Maize South 5, Goddard 2 – Junior Kelsey Sterneker bounced back from a semifinal loss to Carroll with a two-run homer and pitched the Mavericks past Goddard for third place.
Maize South (17-6) scored a run in the first, then stretched its lead to 3-0 on Jody Larson’s two-run single in the third. Sterneker’s blast to center field in the fifth made it 5-1.
Morgan Bohanan homered for Goddard, which finished 18-5.
Carroll 5, Mill Valley 2
|Mill Valley||000||000||0||—||0 2 0|
|Carroll||102||200||x||—||5 10 0|
W — Haffner. L — Le. Myers.
M. South 5, Goddard 2
|Maize South||102||020||0||—||5 6 0|
|Goddard||000||101||0||—||2 7 1|
W — Sterneker. L — Ortega. HR — Maize South, Sterneker; Goddard, Bohanan.
Carroll 8, M. South 1
|Maize South||000||001||0||—||1 8 1|
|Carroll||000||440||x||—||8 9 0|
W — Smith. L — Sterneker. HR — Carroll, H. Hogan, Haffner, Jansen.
Mill Valley 5, Goddard 2
|Mill Valley||010||112||0||—||5 7 1|
|Goddard||000||002||0||—||2 5 2|
W — Le. Myers. L — Graf.