Lawrence Free State ace Meredith Morris had been perfect aside from a fourth-inning hiccup against Derby during the Class 6A softball state quarterfinals Thursday at Blue Valley West.
The Panthers, however, weren’t ready for the season to end.
Down to its final at-bat, Derby finally heated up and rallied for a 3-2 victory in eight innings.
“They never give up,” Panthers coach Christy Weve said. “I have six seniors whose first goal was to get past this first game. This is our third year we’ve been here and the last two we haven’t made it past the first round.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the seventh, seniors Britney Wimberly and Montanna Whiteman led off with singles before sophomore Carly Gum’s game-tying single on a groundball up the gut.
An inning later, after sophomore ace Ashlynn Godown worked around Morris’ two-out single, which ended a string of 12 consecutive batters retired, Wimberly lofted the game-winning sacrifice fly to center, driving in freshman Kenzi Young who led off the extra frame with a single.
Godown only allowed four hits in seven shutouts innings after coughing up a pair of unearned first-inning runs.
“I’m really proud of Ashlynn,” Weve said. “Our little sophomore pitcher came in and did an awesome job. She stuck to our game plan.”
Northwest 4, Maize — Defense made the difference Thursday as Wichita Northwest advanced to the semifinals with a 4-3 win against Maize.
The fourth-seeded Grizzlies (20-3) pushed across four runs without a hit during the fourth inning then withstood the Eagles’ sixth-inning rally, which fizzled on a controversial interference call.
Maize (18-5) had seized momentum as it tried to rally from a 4-0 hole.
Three straight Eagles walked leading off the sixth, loading the bases for senior Sarah Glass, who blasted a bases-clearing double to the fence in left.
Wichita Northwest ace Mary Henning retired two of the next three batters before Maize junior Gabrielle Harding popped up to the middle of the diamond.
Grizzlies second baseman Erika David and shortstop Cassidy Harbert came together a step in front of second base, where Harbert dropped the ball as Glass scampered home with the apparent game-tying run.
The Eagles’ celebration was short-lived.
Wichita Northwest coach Merri Copeland argued for interference, claiming Maize freshman Bailey Weese had bumped David as she came in to make a play.
The three umpires huddled and ruled Harding out, taking the run off the board.
“Any time a player’s going after a ball, if there’s contact, it’s usually interference,” Copeland said. “I think they got it right.”
Henning, who struck out six while allowing five hits and five walks, worked around leadoff singles by sophomore Alexa Eisenbart and junior Emily Griggs to protect the one-run win.
The Grizzlies’ fourth inning started with an error by Glass, who bobbled a grounder to short by David.
Junior Caitlin Savage was safe on a sacrifice bunt when the Eagles tried unsuccessfully to cut down David, who later scored on senior Carlyn Walsh’s bases-loaded walk.
Senior Megan Putman then delivered the decisive blow when her grounder to first was misplayed for a three-run error, one of four Maize committed in the loss.
“We have a young team, but I felt like at the end of the season we were starting to come together,” Eagles coach Jenny Meirowsky said. “Maybe a lack of experience at the state tournament showed a little bit today.… We don’t usually have that many errors in a game. We just lost it a little bit.”
Northwest will face top-seeded Washburn Rural (23-0) in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday.
“If we’re on, we’ll have a chance to win,” Copeland said. “Crazier things have happened.”
Northwest 4, Maize 3
|Maize||000||003||0||—||3 5 4|
|Northwest||000||400||x||—||4 5 0|
W — Henning. L — Finney.
Derby 3, Free State 2
|Derby||000||100||11||—||3 8 3|
|Free State||200||000||00||—||2 6 1|
W — Godown. L — Morris.