Andover Central's softball players hugged each other, hugged fans, posed for pictures and even practiced chest bumps in the outfield at Two Rivers Youth Club on Wednesday night.
The celebration was in order after the Jaguars defeated Kapaun Mount Carmel 3-1 to advance to the Class 5A tournament on May 27 and 28 at TRYC.
There were plenty of moments to rejoice in. Such as Bailey Cline's two-run double in the fifth inning and pitcher Lacey Bolen's sweet changeup to strike out Kapaun's leadoff hitter, Liz Stasiewicz, for the second out of the seventh inning.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had, other than winning (the Class 5A title in 2009) my freshman year," said Cline, a junior left fielder. "It's awesome."
Memories of a difficult regular season were still fresh: Memories of being run-ruled twice by Maize. Memories of being swept by Goddard. Memories of losing to rival Andover last week.
"We've gotten beat down a lot," Cline said. "But we've always stayed together as a team. We've always been close, and we never gave up."
And that impressed coach Rita Frakes, whose team improved to 12-9.
"We got pretty beat up the first of the year," she said. "We took a lot f lumps for a program that has been pretty successful, rebuilding a little bit. My kids had two choices, whether to give up or fight back. We came to practice every day willing to fight and work hard."
One of the Jaguars' most noticeable changes was defensively. While the Jaguars committed four errors against Kapaun, they responded well to each. Especially Bolen. After three of the errors, she struck out the next batter.
Kapaun took a 1-0 lead when Chloe Haffley, who led off the fourth with a double, scored on an error by second baseman Kristine Meares. Bolen then set the Crusaders down in order to end the inning.
Andover Central responded in the top of the fifth when Cline hit a two-out, two-run double to center field. Justine Howarter knocked in Cline when her fly to center field was dropped, giving the Jaguars the 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, though, Kapaun was in prime position to score after No. 9 hitter Wendy Funes hit a one-out double. She moved to third on a wild pitch by Bolen.
Frakes called time. Three pitches later, Bolen struck out Stasiewicz, then ended the game when Dani Gardner grounded out to second.
"This is good for our program, good for our young kids to see we can do it with a young team and we can get better every day and keep fighting," Frakes said. "I'm as proud of this bunch as anybody. They could have given up, and they didn't."
Andover Central 12, Pittsburg 0
Pittsburg 000 00x x — 0 1 2 Andover Central 273 0xx x — 12 9 0
WP—Leibold. LP—Shoemaker. HR—Huelskamp, Andover Central
Kapaun 11, Andover 8
Andover 100 202 3 — 8 8 5 Kapaun 601 013 x — 11 7 5
WP—Faragher. LP—Rider. HR—Ellison, Andover
Andover Central 3, Kapaun 1
Andover Central 000 030 0 — 3 6 4 Kapaun 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
Bishop Carroll advances to 5A tournament — Carroll senior Kaitlyn Carey hit a two-run single to center field in the fourth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie with Arkansas City.
"We did a good job of getting runs aacross when we needed to," Carroll coach Angie Dal Pozzo said. "... We played well on defense and (freshman pitcher) Jessi (Haffner) did a good job."
Carroll, which had a bye in the semifinals, improved to 19-2 with the win.
Arkansas City 9, Emporia 0
Emporia 000 000 0 — 0 1 0 Arkansas City 102 240 x — 9 14 0
WP—Stewart. LP—Crone. HR—Stewart, Arkansas City
Carroll 7, Arkansas City 3
Arkansas City 101 000 1 — 3 6 2 Bishop Carroll 020 212 x — 7 14 1
WP—Haffner. LP—Stewart. HR—Stewart, Arkansas City