SALINA – Andover Central, which benefited from a furious seventh-inning rally to get to the Class 4A-I softball tournament, couldn’t quite escape Thursday.
Third-seeded Piper tied the score with two out in the seventh inning and pushed across three runs in the eighth after the Jaguars had scored twice, emerging with a 9-8 quarterfinal victory.
The Pirates (21-2) will take on second-seeded Paola (21-2) in Friday’s semifinals.
Andover Central, which had scored 12 runs against Circle in the seventh for a 13-7 regional final victory, took the offensive this time, jumping out to a quick lead with four runs in the first and two more in the second for a 6-3 lead after two.
After surrendering two runs in the fourth, sophomore left-hander Audrey Orlowski shut down Piper in the fifth and sixth, and the Jaguars were still clinging to a 6-5 lead.
But in the seventh, Orlowski recorded two outs but then hit Piper catcher Kamryn Sparks. Courtesy runner Riley Porter moved to third on an errant pickoff throw, and freshman Grace Banes’ single drove her in to tie the score and force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Andover Central’s offense came to life. Brooklyn Jamison singled, and Brooklyn Strobel reached on an error. Alyssa Wesley moved up the runners with a sacrifice, and courtesy runner Maura Flahive scored when Audrey Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Jaguars then got an insurance run when cleanup hitter Lauren Wolf singled in Strobel.
But Piper – state runner-up last year to Spring Hill – found an answer in the bottom of the inning.
Junior Alexis Rymer’s single drove in Payton Nigh with the winning run. Nigh had singled – her fourth hit of the game to go with two doubles and another single.
It was truly a bitter pill for Andover Central, which seemed to have the quarterfinal victory in sight, only to be denied by Piper rallies helped by key errors.
Afterward, coach Rita Frakes said the Jaguars just couldn’t capitalize on key opportunities.
“We fought, fought and came out really strong,” she said. “Then they just chipped away at our runs … then we made some baserunning errors that would have put us in scoring position. Those little mistakes just eat you up after awhile.”
She said one of the keys was being unable to retire Piper leadoff hitter Emma Golden, who had a double and two singles off Orlowski.
“Their leadoff hitter is such a danged hard out,” Frakes said.
The Jaguars had played error-free until the crucial errors in the seventh and eighth.
“I always say defense wins ballgames, but sometimes it loses ballgames,” Frakes said.”It’s a tough one to lose, because I thought we matched up pretty well with them, and we were coming off a pretty exciting regional. This was a tough loss for us.”
Singles by Bailey Bugner in the second and Payton Chavez in the sixth were all Brown allowed.
Defending champion Spring Hill (19-4) will meet top-seeded Independence (20-1) in Friday’s semifinals. Wamego gave Independence a scare before the Bulldogs prevailed, 3-2.
Still, Andale-Garden Plain coach Chuck Schrader was pleased by the season, if not Thursday’s outcome.
“We knew it was a tough draw when we saw it come out,” he said. “We had a lot of respect for Spring Hill, their team and their pitcher, and the whole nine yards.
“We battled them, and didn’t quite get the hits when we needed them. We had a couple of times where we needed just one key hit, and that’s the way the game goes.”
W – Brown. L – Bugner. HR – Spring Hill, Kroutch.
W – Vest. L – Orlowski.