TOPEKA — Leading 8-1 in the fourth inning of Saturday's Class 5A softball championship game, Andale-Garden Plain coach Doris Hein gathered her players for one last pep talk. Her message, delivered so succinctly, was not only for her players.
It was also for herself.
"I told them to stay in the here and now, don't think about what could be getting ready to happen," Hein said. "Stay focused, stay in the moment... it was a good reminder for me, too."
That moment didn't last long. The Indians tacked on three more runs in the fifth inning for the 11-1, run-rule victory over Bishop Carroll. It was Andale-Garden Plain's second title in three years after winning the 4A crown in 2008.
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Sophomores Sydney Eck and Kelsey Harlow led the way for the Indians, with Eck recording eight strikeouts for the win along with going 2 for 3 with a triple, two runs and two RBIs. Harlow went 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
"When you get a big lead early, you get a lot more comfortable on the mound," Eck said. "We wanted to come out here and dominate, prove to everyone what we're made of."
Andale-Garden Plain (24-1) racked up 15 hits and led 2-0 after the first inning, thanks to RBI singles from Harlow and Bradie Schmelzer. The Indians tacked on four runs in the second and two in the third on Eck's two-RBI triple for an 8-1 lead.
Harlow's single in the fifth inning scored Molly Hein and Kelsey Fisher, putting the Indians up 10 and putting the run rule into effect.
"We'd been playing great ball headed into state," Doris Hein said. "You could tell they were really feeling it lately... I've been saying that it seems like we've been hitting on all cylinders for a while now, pitching, hitting, fielding... just the complete package."
Eck led Andale-Garden Plain's celebration out of the dugout, holding her team's flag high above her head and running into the infield.
"We talked about (winning state) all year," Harlow said. "It's always been our ultimate goal."
Megan Wilson took the loss for Carroll (20-5).
"My hat's off to Andale-Garden Plain," Carroll coach Angie Dal Pozzo said. "We just ran out of steam today. From the way we started to the way we were able to finish the last couple of weeks has made me so proud of this group. By the end of the year, they were playing as a team."
Bishop Carroll (20-5) 001 00 — 1 2 1 Andale-Garden Plain (24-1) 242 03 — 11 15 1
W—S. Eck. L—Wilson.
Aquinas 3, Salina South 2
Salina South (19-6) 002 000 0 — 2 4 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (23-1) 101 001 x — 3 7 1
Carroll 3, Aquinas 2
Bishop Carroll000 300 0 — 3 7 0 St. Thomas Aquinas010 000 1 — 2 3 2
Andale-G.P. 5, Salina South 1
Salina South010 000 0 — 1 5 1 Andale-Garden Plain030 020 x — 5 9 0
W—S. Eck. L—Crawford.