A conversation in the Valley Center dugout before the fifth inning in Monday’s regional championship game against Andover and its hard-throwing ace, Lexi Lesperance, put Valley Center senior Wylie Glover in the right mindset.
“We talked about how well she was throwing her rise ball and it’s really working for her, so we’ve got to lay off of it,” Glover said. “Once you get that one good pitch, you’re going to have to jump on it. If you don’t, then the rest is going to be junk because Lexi is such a great pitcher. You have to take advantage.”
Glover, a left-handed hitter, remained disciplined and waited for a change-up down the middle of the plate and drove it to the fence in the left-center gap, clearing the bases for a 3-RBI double to give Valley Center a lead it would hold in a 5-2 victory over Andover.
Valley Center (19-3) advances to the Class 5A tournament next week in Wichita for the third straight year, while Andover (9-11) ends its season one game short of returning after its magical run in last spring’s state tournament.
“(Glover) had a big at-bat for us and that’s what seniors do,” Valley Center coach Corey Jones said. “She’s had a big year for us and her stats show that, but that was a big, big hit.”
Glover’s hit was also the first time Valley Center had made solid contact on one of Lesperance’s pitches.
Valley Center had scored a run in the fourth, but did so on a RBI groundout by Kaylee Burnett after Glover led off the inning with a walk and had been moved around the bases. Lesperance’s rise ball was dominant and kept Valley Center mostly off the base paths for the first four innings when Andover built a 2-1 lead.
“She was throwing some heat tonight, a lot faster than what we’re used to,” Jones said. “She pitched great, but we came through when we needed to.”
The fifth inning began with Ashlyn Jacobs reaching base on an error, then Lesperance plunking No. 9 hitter Emma Meyer to put the first two runners on. Alli Burke loaded the bases with a nifty bunt between the third baseman and the pitcher, but Andover would register the first out without allowing a run to score.
That’s when Glover came to the plate and altered the game with one swing of the bat. She didn’t take the bait on a riser on the first pitch and laid off another outside. Then her eyes grew big when the pitch she was sitting on — an off-speed pitch — was thrown by Lesperance.
Against a quality pitcher like that, a chance like that and only comes around maybe once an at-bat and Glover capitalized.
“Hey, I like change-ups so I thought I might as well go for it,” Glover said. “I just had to remember to keep my hands back.”
For Andover, it was a disappointing conclusion to an up-and-down season. Coach Ernie Hager knew the Trojans had the potential to make another state run and looked dialed in during a run-rule 14-0 victory over Heights in the opening game of the day.
But the Trojans failed to generate much of an attack against Burnett on the mound, as the Valley Center senior delivered a complete-game performance, allowing one earned run, four hits, and striking out eight. Lesperance, her counterpart, also threw a complete game and allowed two earned runs and struck out four.
“We had a game plan going into tonight and I thought our girls executed it really well,” Andover coach Ernie Hager said. “Valley Center is just a tough team and they have a lot of good players. There’s no real weak spots in their line-up. We played a good team and we didn’t end up on top tonight.”
Each team finished with just four hits, while Andover’s Sarah Conley and Glover both finished with a pair.
For the third straight year, Valley Center is back at the state tournament. But this time the senior-laden team wants to do something it has failed to do their previous two appearances — advance.
“We just want to win that first game,” Glover said. “That’s our only goal. Just win at state.”
“We’ve got a great team this year and I’m really looking forward to it,” Burnett added. “We just want to make it as far as we can and do the best we can.”
VALLEY CENTER 5, ANDOVER 2
|Andover (9-11)||000||200||0||—||2 4 5|
|Valley Center (19-3)||000||140||x||—||5 4 1|
W: Burnett. L: Lesperance.
ANDOVER: Way 0-2, Peck 0-3, Lesperance 1-3, Conley 2-3, Casady 0-2, Wilmoth 0-2, Richards 0-3, Hild 0-2, Hufman 0-1, Weber 1-3. Pitching: Lesperance 6 IP-2 ER.
VALLEY CENTER: Burke 1-3, Perez 0-3, Glover 2-2, Rowley 0-3, Thorne 0-2, Burnett 0-3, Fischer 0-3, Jacobs 1-3, Meyer 0-1. Pitching: Burnett 7 IP-1 ER.
VALLEY CENTER 14, NEWTON 4
|Newton (1-18)||000||040||—||4 6 0|
|Valley Center (18-3)||301||631||—||14 16 3|
W: Jacobs. L: Stonchouse. HR: Valley Center, Jacobs.
NEWTON: Perez 1-3, Peancy 1-3, Long 1-3, Stark 0-3, Bacon 1-3, Waiton 0-3, Treflor 0-3, Griswold 1-3, Regier 1-3. Pitching: Stonchouse 3 2/3 IP-10 ER, Llamas 1 1/3-2.
VALLEY CENTER: Burke 4-5, Perez -3, Glover 1-2, Thorne 2-4, Rowley 4-4, Burnett 0-3, Fischer 1-3, Jacobs 2-2, Meyer 1-3. Pitching: Jacobs 6 IP-1 ER.
ANDOVER 14, HEIGHTS 0