Chieftain softball shines in limelight of Channel 6 area game of the week
A televised game, a new bat and a hard practice the previous day.
Tonganoxie High softball players and coaches will tell you that each of those elements somehow helped the Chieftains put the brakes on a recent losing skid with a doubleheader win Thursday at home against Perry-Lecompton.
First of all, Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 televised Thursday's first game.
With Tonganoxie taking center stage, THS assistant coach Debbie Himpel said the team wanted to have a solid showing on the Lawrence television channel.
"They didn't want to be embarrassed," Himpel said.
THS was far from an embarrassing outing. Pitcher Aimee Riddle struck out six Perry-Lecompton batters and pitched a shutout in a 3-0 Chieftain win.
It's too bad Channel 6 didn't stick around for game 2.
Perry-Lecompton jumped out to an early 2-0 lead before Tonganoxie took the lead at 3-2 in the third. The Kaws then amassed a five-run fifth and had what looked to be a commanding 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Even though Tonganoxie wasn't on TV, the Chieftains put together a highlight reel of their own. THS scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth and added two more in the sixth for a 9-7 come-from-behind victory.
Tonganoxie's bats came alive in the second game. More accurately, Tonganoxie's new bat came alive.
Lindsay Himpel broke out a new bat for the doubleheader. Several players stepped to the plate with the bat, known as a Rocket-tech.
Himpel and Sarah Flaherty both had triples on the day, while other Chieftains pounded away with the bat as well.
Debbie Himpel said many of the players were excited to use the new bat.
"If they think it's the bat, that's OK," Himpel said.
Many great game performances aren't complete without a solid practice or two earlier in the week.
For Tonganoxie, that practice came the day before.
With the Chieftains coming off a discouraging doubleheader loss to Santa Fe Trail earlier in the week, the Chieftains participated in a lively practice last Wednesday.
"Hard practices pay off pretty much because that's what we had yesterday," THS second baseman Ashlee Murphy said.
Her coach agreed.
"They were a lot more focused," Himpel said. "They came ready to play."
Strikeouts have been a problem area for Tonganoxie this year, but on Thursday, Chieftain batters were putting the stick on the ball more effectively.
Murphy admitted she was striking out too many times this season, but that changed against Perry-Lecompton.
"But I got out of my pit," Murphy said. "I'm back in the game."
While Tonganoxie's bats were more lively Thursday, pitching wasn't too shabby, either.
Riddle pitched both games, amounting to 14 innings of pitching. Riddle ran into some trouble in the second game, but the offense helped her out.
Thursday marked the first time in high school she pitched two complete games back-to-back. During the summer in sanctioned tournaments, Riddle is more accustomed to the feat. The last time she pitched that many innings in a row was last August.
"I got real tired," Riddle said.
The pitcher, however, survived the doubleheader.
In the process, the Chieftains found new life heading into the home stretch of the season.
The wins moved Tonganoxie to 5-8 heading into Tuesday's doubleheader at Lansing.
The Chieftains then will play Thursday at home against Bishop-Ward before playing Monday at Easton against Pleasant Ridge. The Chieftains will complete the season Tuesday in Tonganoxie by making up a rained-out game against Mill Valley.
The final seven games of the season will be packed into eight days, so the stretch could leave the team fatigued.
But with a sweep of Perry-Lecompton and that new bat, the Chieftains have some momentum to offset the busy schedule.
"Everybody's pumped up," Riddle said.