For the first time in three seasons of Class 5A softball quarterfinal matchups against Topeka Seaman, Valley Center finally held the upper hand in experience Thursday.
And after scoring four runs in the first inning, the Hornets showed what the veteran variable was worth.
Senior Kaylee Burnett hit a two-run home run and threw a three-hit shutout, leading Valley Center to a 5-0 victory over the defending 5A champion at Two Rivers Youth Complex.
Valley Center (20-3) will play No. 1 seed Shawnee Heights (22-0) at 11 a.m. Friday in the semifinals. Shawnee Heights eliminated Salina South 12-0 in five innings.
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Burnett’s homer came right after junior Taylor Rowley hit a two-run triple for Valley Center’s first runs. The Hornets added a run in the third inning on a Seaman throwing error.
It was more than enough for Burnett, who escaped her biggest trouble in the sixth by striking out Seaman’s Makayla Akin with runners on second and third to end the inning.
“We’ve been here three times now and I think we know what to expect,” said Burnett, whose previous two seasons were ended by Seaman. “The last two years, we’ve been really nervous. I think we just calmed down this year and really got the job done.”
Seaman, which graduated 10 seniors from last year’s championship team, struggled to connect on Burnett’s changeup.
“Burnett did a nice job keeping us off balance,” said Seaman coach Jay Monhollon, whose team finished 18-5. “I thought we had some opportunities. We just couldn’t square the ball up.”
Mill Valley 9, Bishop Carroll 7 – Bishop Carroll hadn’t experienced anything like the top of the first inning against Mill Valley.
Not this season. And seldom in the last several seasons, when the Golden Eagles were piling up one state title after another.
But Mill Valley got a quick run from its leadoff batter Peyton Moeder. And five hits, an error and two hit batters later, the Jaguars had a seven-run lead before Carroll could come to bat.
The Eagles spent the rest of the game chipping away. But Moeder’s two-out, two-run opposite field homer in the sixth allowed Mill Valley to hold off Carroll.
Mill Valley (14-9), the No. 7 seed, dealt Carroll its third loss in the last 101 games behind the hot start and Moeder’s timely blast, which allowed the Jaguars to withstand a seventh-inning solo shot by Kaylin Watkins.
“That’s what we talked about on the bus on the way here is we’ve got to start loud, we’ve got to start aggressively,” said Moeder, a left-handed hitting center fielder who went 3 for 4 with four RBIs. “That’s exactly what we did. We were tough on the bases from the very beginning.”
Mill Valley, which lost to Carroll in the 2013 title game, did its early damage against Watkins and Reagan Smith. Six of the seven Jaguars that Watkins faced reached base.
After Smith replaced Watkins, Mill Valley’s Lilly Blecha hit a two-run double and Moeder blooped a two-run single to cap the seven-run inning in which the Jaguars sent 11 to the plate.
“It just started out with the drop and then we made an error to get their leadoff hitter to third,” said Carroll coach Steve Harshberger, referring to Moeder’s hit to start the game. “When we got within one, I was like, ‘There’s that run.’ That’s just the way it goes.”
Carroll (21-2), which lost for the first time in 14 games, countered with four runs in the first and pulled within 7-6 on Madison Miller’s solo home run in the fourth. But the Eagles also were snakebitten when Allyssa Vonfeldt lined into a double play to end the sixth.
“We have such a strong team,” Watkins said. “We felt like we could make it back and we were going to do everything we could to do that.”
But the task got tougher in the top of the seventh when Mill Valley pinch hitter Sydney Parker reached on a two-out single. That brought Moeder to the plate, and she sliced Smith’s pitch over the fence in left center to stretch the Jaguars’ lead to 9-6.
Carroll cut the deficit to 9-7 when Watkins hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh over the fence in center. But it was the Eagles’ last hit of the season. It was also Carroll’s second straight loss in the quarterfinals, after Andover ended the Eagles’ 77-game winning streak a year ago.
BV Southwest 9, Maize 7 – Southwest earned a semifinal matchup against fellow Eastern Kansas League foe Mill Valley by upsetting the third-seeded Eagles.
The Timberwolves used a four-run third to take a 5-0 lead against Maize. Peyton Renzi homered, and Kathryn Reeg and Sophia Mayhugh each doubled and scored.
Southwest took a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Maize scored three runs, but Stonestreet struck out Loren Fiegel with two on to end the game.
Topeka Seaman000 000 0 – 0 3 2
Valley Center401 000 x – 5 5 0
W: Burnett. L: Akin. HR: Valley Center, Burnett.
Mill Valley700 002 0 – 9 8 2
Bishop Carroll401 100 1 – 7 13 2
W: Florez. L: Watkins. Sv—Bonn. HR: Mill Valley, Moeder; Carroll, Miller, Watkins.
BV Southwest104 013 0 –9 13 2
Maize001 030 3 – 7 8 2
W: Stonestreet. L: Ogden. HR: Maize, Fiegel, Glass; BV Southwest: Renzi, Reeg.