Maize South upsets rival on home field in regional final
Lauren Johnson thought, 'Karma.'
Two days after the Maize High baseball team beat Maize South on its home field to win the regional tournament and advance to state, the Mavericks' softball team did the same thing. Maize South beat Maize on its home field 12-4 in their Class 5A regional tournament final.
After the Eagles' baseball team won, players asked parents to get the Maize South logo in the celebratory team photos. Maize South did the same thing Wednesday.
"Get the Eagle in it," one player said.
The players ran to the outfield and screamed before posing for a photo few expected them to take.
"But this time, little sister won," Johnson, a junior, said.
Maize came in the heavy favorite. The Eagles were the No. 3 seeds in all of Class 5A and No. 2 in the west regional. They had beaten Bishop Carroll, Northwest and Derby twice.
Maize South was the No. 11 seed in the west regional alone at 11-9. The Mavericks had a signature win against Carroll but had several head-scratching losses.
That didn't matter. They hadn't played each other.
"The key tonight was that we believed in ourselves," coach Mike Tinich said. "We believed that we could hit. We believed that we could play defense. We believed that we belonged with the best in this state."
Johnson set the tone in the top of the first inning with a full count lead-off single. She didn't score, but she got to third.
An inning later, she hit a bases-clearing triple to make it 3-0. The Mavs never looked back. All but one batter finished with a hit and only two struck out. Johnson finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
"She is critical," Tinich said. "She's a gamer. She came up in a big game and stepped up and said, 'I'm gonna lead you.' "
Her counterpart, Carley Sterneker, was equally impressive down the stretch, ending 2-of-5 and four RBIs, including a three-run double in the top of the seventh that crushed any legitimate hope of a comeback.
And on the mound, Ashlie Thissen proved, again, to be a world-beater. Thissen already had two wins against Carroll in her career. She was money against a team that was arguably better Wednesday night.
Thissen pitched a complete game and gave up four runs to one of the most aggressive-hitting teams in Kansas. Maize does not strike out often, but with the last out, Thissen blew past Madi Arnold and threw her glove in the air.
She also helped herself at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI of her own.
"Coming together as a team," Thissen said, "we have had our failures, but we have really learned from it all. It's amazing."
The struggle with Maize South this season has been consistency. A week after beating Carroll, the Mavericks lost to a good (but not as good as Carroll) Eisenhower team.
Part of Maize South's struggles this season have come with scheduling. The Mavericks' top seven regular season opponents had a combined 104-35 coming into the regional tournaments.
They went 4-6 against those teams.
Still, Maize South carries that stigma of inconsistency, warranted or not, and Thissen said they have learned how to deal with that. They have learned to pick each other up, no matter the circumstance.
That showed Wednesday.
"It's crazy how one day we can all be down and the next day, come out and upset one of the best teams in the state - let alone our rival," Johnson said. "I can't even describe it. It's crazy."