Miscues spoil THS chances at THS
Tonganoxie High softball co-coach Craig Lohman told his players before the regional tournament that the road to state was a six-step process -- each game constituting a step.
The Chieftains took care of three steps at regionals, but they hit a snag during step four -- during the Class 4A state quarterfinals against Augusta.
Tonganoxie held an early 3-0 lead against AHS, thanks to Melissa Pratt's three-run homer in the bottom of the first. But back-to-back errors in the top of the sixth -- both with two out -- helped the Orioles break a 3-3 tie and win, 7-4.
"On step four, we beat ourselves by not doing the fundamentals," Lohman said.
Pratt, who hit her first home run of the season in the regional finals against Piper, sent her second homer over the blue snow fence in center field at Bill Burke Sports Complex.
The shot ignited the crowd and the Chieftains, but Pratt knew her squad would need more runs.
"I didn't like to have just that many runs," the sophomore said.
THS was one out from entering the bottom of the sixth still tied. But shortstop Lindsey Himpel and third baseman Roxie Grizzle had back-to-back throwing errors to first, which helped Augusta pull ahead.
Tonganoxie started one final rally in the bottom of the seventh. Tracie Hileman tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, but the Chieftain tallied the lone run in the final inning.
THS co-coach Debbie Himpel said Tonganoxie, which was making its first state appearance, didn't string enough hits together against the Orioles (17-5).
"It just wasn't meant to be," Himpel said.
She said the young squad had some bad plays that led to the team's first-round exit.
"There's no finger-pointing at one person," Himpel said. "It wasn't one person. It was a team meltdown."
Lohman reiterated that a fundamental breakdown, not a team meltdown, led to defeat.
"I've always told the girls errors lead to runners, and runners lead to losses, and that's exactly what happened," Lohman said.
Augusta, which was seeded sixth, defeated top-seeded Marysville in the seminfinals and won the state crown with a 6-2 victory against Thomas More Prep-Marian from Hays.
The Orioles, who finished the season 19-5, won the title after placing second last year.
Lohman, however, envisioned the Chieftains, not the Orioles, in the title game.
"In all honesty, there's no reason," Lohman said. "We should have been there."
THS finished the season at 20-4 and was Kaw Valley League co-champion with Lansing -- along with regional champ.
Pratt, who is a sophomore, is looking toward the future with optimism.
"It makes me feel a lot better that we got here," Pratt said. "We have no seniors, so we'll all be back next year."
Lohman said the team should be able to build on Friday's state appearance in Salina.
"It's a good experience for the girls and I hope it makes them more hungry for next year," Lohman said. "To get back to the next spot and go farther."