Andale-Garden Plain softball coach Doris Hein shuns the spotlight, but it was forced on her Wednesday night.
After the Indians defeated McPherson 4-1 to advance to the Class 4A tournament on May 25-26 in Salina, Hein was presented with a retirement plaque honoring her 13 years as Andale’s coach. She’s 69-3 in the past three seasons and has won a state title in three of the past four years.
Seniors Sydnee Eck and Molly Hein, Hein’s daughter, then hugged her fiercely as they toppled to the dirt infield. The team then put Doris Hein on their shoulders.
It was an emotional aftermath for Hein, although her customary sunglasses remained firmly in place.
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“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Hein, whose team is 22-1. “This is my last game on this field, but I’m not done with these gals yet.”
She pointed over at her players as they laughed and joked during postgame pictures.
“They’re crazy. They’re a fun group,” Hein said. “They have a fun time, and I think it helps them play loose. They’re a great group.”
Senior Kelsey Harlow added: “It feels really good to see Hein like that. It feels good to be her last team and play for her like that.”
The eight-team regional had seven teams with winning records and three of 4A’s top teams – Andale, McPherson and Maize South.
McPherson (19-4) advanced to the title game by overcoming a 7-0 deficit to Maize South (17-3). The Bullpups trailed 7-3 with two outs in the top of the seventh, but scored five runs in the inning for the win.
“I was concerned that they would come really hyped, and they did,” Hein said of McPherson. “They played great defense against us. We were just able to outlast them with the hits and our own defense.”
While Eck opened the game by striking out McPherson’s first batter, the Bullpups followed with a hit and then two batters later, an RBI double by second baseman Emily Davis.
Eck struck out three in that inning, struck out two in the next two innings, as well. She finished with 10 strikeouts – including striking out the final batter.
“Sydnee is … she gets the pub for a reason,” McPherson coach Cody Stucky said. “She’s the real deal…. We couldn’t put enough balls in play. I thought we played pretty well defensively.”
Eck retired 13 straight to end the game.
“She just gets on top of her batters,” Harlow said. “She knows how to pitch.… She knows the situation and where the ball needs to go. She keeps them off balance.”
Down 1-0 after the top of the first, Andale’s Julie Lies led off with a hit on a drag bunt. After Eck had a sacrifice bunt to move her to second, Molly Hein hit an RBI single to right. While Hein was thrown out at second, Harlow followed with a solo homer to right center for a 2-1 lead.
Rachel Eck added an RBI groundout in the third and Sydnee Eck hit a solo homer to left-center in the fifth for a 4-1 lead. Eck also had a homer in the semifinal game.
“I thought we executed really well,” Doris Hein said. “Obviously (Sydnee) threw really well on the mound and (catcher) Alli (Heimerman) called a good game. But we also executed really well. We got the bunts down when we needed to, a ball down here to third so we could score…. We had a great defensive play (in right field by Erin Tice). It was really nice.”
Andale 4, McPherson 1
1000000—1 3 1Andale201010x—4 8 0
W — S. Eck. L — Steiner. HR — S. Eck, Andale; Harlow, Andale.
Andale 8, Smoky Valley 1
0000010—1 2 2Andale102032x—8 8 1
W — S. Eck. L — Stockman. HR — S. Eck, Andale.
McPherson 8, Maize South 7
0000305—8 12 2Maize South3022000—7 7 1
W — Swisher. L — Sterneker. HR — Sterneker, Maize South; Mapes, Maize South.