SALINA — With a second straight Class 4A-I championship in its grasp, the Augusta softball team did not flinch.
Their defense stayed sharp. Their pitching stayed solid. Their hitting stayed clutch.
And after Augusta finished off Andale-Garden Plain 7-1 on Friday, the championship trophy stayed with the Orioles.
“It’s awesome,” said Augusta senior first baseman Brooke Eberhardt, who went 3 for 4 with four RBIs. “A lot of people don’t ever even get the chance to win one (state championship), and we got two.”
The Orioles almost didn’t even get a shot to defend the title, rallying from a 4-1 deficit in the sixth inning of Friday’s semifinal game against Kansas City Piper with a grand slam from Kylie Wesbrooks and a solo home run by Eberhardt to trigger an 8-4 win.
In the championship game, it was Eberhardt who started things off for Augusta (21-4) by getting on base with a single, then scoring on a groundout from Madison Wheeler for a 1-0 lead. Jordan Hill tacked on an RBI single in the second for a 2-0 lead.
Eberhardt added an RBI double in the third inning to score Taylor Hinnenkamp.
“Honestly, I just go up to plate thinking I’m going to get base hit, and if it does more or goes farther that’s great,” Eberhardt said. “Our mindset from the beginning of the season was we wanted to come out and defend our title.”
“We say we’re going to compete and be good in April, and we’re going to be great in May,” said third-year Augusta coach Shane Steinkamp. “And that’s exactly what these kids did, that’s exactly how they performed today. That’s what I expected out of them, especially with all the seniors on this team.”
The Orioles and senior pitcher Megan Hayes were methodical in shutting down Andale-Garden Plain (16-7), a team they split two games with in the regular season. In the fifth inning, with runners at second and third and no outs, Hayes managed to escape with the Indians scoring once.
“Only up 3-0, there’s a big possibility they can come back, because we’ve seen them rally before,” Hayes said. “I felt like if I was pitching the way I knew I could, my team would have my back and we’d be fine. Our defense has always been good, and this weekend they were amazing.”
Augusta added two more runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single from Eberhardt, then two more in the sixth on an RBI single from Wesbrooks and a sacrifice fly from Eberhardt.
“(Augusta) is a great, solid team,” Andale-Garden Plain coach Kristen Harris said. “A great team with a lot of good hitters ... they were on top of the ball today and we weren’t.”
Hayes, who gave up three hits, sat Andale-Garden Plain down 1-2-3 in the seventh for the victory, getting Kylie Winsor to ground out to end the game.
“I think this (title) is going to be No. 1 for me, because getting the first one is great but defending a title is a really hard thing to do,” Steinkamp said. “We had some ups and downs and had to move some kids around this season, position-wise, to find the right fit. So to me, this is probably going to be my favorite.
“I’m lucky to have coached these kids. It’s been a privilege.”
Augusta 7, Andale-GP 1
1 3 2
7 11 2
W – Hayes. L – Ellis.
Augusta 8, KC Piper 4
8 12 2
4 4 2
W – Divine. L – Henry. HR — Augusta, Wesbrooks, Eberhardt; KC Piper, Henry.
Andale-GP 11, Baldwin 7
7 11 3
11 15 5
W — B. Bugner. L — Ka. Burton. HR — Andale-GP, Horsch, Reynolds.