With six outs left, Goddard trailed to the No. 14 seed in Class 5A West, a group that entered the day with four wins all season.
Senior second baseman Emme Yost woke the Lions up in the bottom of the sixth. She pushed a groundball between the third baseman and short stop, and drove in the game-tying run. Goddard went on to score three runs and win 7-5.
The focus was back.
Goddard went on to its regional championship against No. 6 Salina South, a team that was fresh off a 15-0 win over Wichita Heights. The Lions held the Cougars off the scoreboard until the sixth inning and pulled out a 2-1 win after a defensive gem. The 2019 title marks Goddard’s fifth in the past seven years and fourth in the past five.
Sophomore Kendal LeGrand, who didn’t pitch last season because of a broken hand, kept the ball on the ground and showed Goddard doesn’t have just one state championship-caliber pitcher, in junior Sydni Williams, but two.
“You can’t win state with just one arm,” senior Gentry Shepherd said. “They change the speed of the game whenever we need it.”
And when Salina South had a chance to crack the game open in the fourth inning of a scoreless game, senior left fielder Torri Vang and senior catcher Shay Martinez combined for a play at the plate that set the tone.
The Lions capped their trip to state with similar flair as Williams caught a liner to first, turned and fired to second base and shortstop Kinley Poynter, who smartly reached the bag in time to put out a runner who was trying to get back. Goddard’s game-ending double play sent coach Rita Smith sprinting onto the field in celebration.
“Did I look fast?” she joked. “I felt pretty fast. This is a special group of seniors. They’re very close-knit, and we want to end on a high note for them. It’s good to be walking out of your own field on top because I’ve been on the other end before, and it’s not a good feeling.”
Goddard will enter the state tournament anywhere between the No. 2 and No. 5 seed. Although one expectation has been reached, the goal begins anew at state. In spite of all the Lions’ state tournament appearances, they haven’t won a state game since 2013, when topped now-two-time defending champion Shawnee Heights 4-3 in nine innings.
The good news: Goddard is arguably the hottest softball team in the Wichita area, winner of 12 straight.
The Lions started the 2019 season with three AVCTL II splits with Arkansas City, Eisenhower and Maize South. All three opponents either reached the state tournament or played in Tuesday’s regional championship games.
Despite starting 3-3, Goddard didn’t panic — or at least didn’t show it. Now the tradition lives on.
“There was a lot of season left at that time,” Vang said. “We knew we had a lot do to do and that there was a lot left for us.”