Like THS, McLouth hopes inaugural trip to 3A state is magical
McLouth High softball players will be hungry for a state title when the Class 3A state tournament begins Friday in Manhattan.
As for being hungry for food, the Bulldogs should be satisfied this week, thanks to MHS supporters.
On Sunday, a few McLouth businesses treated the team to a meal at Bartlett's Fried Chicken.
And Thursday, after the team has its final practice on its home field, the MHS booster club will throw a pizza dinner for the team.
"There's been a lot of neat things happening," MHS coach Ballard Patterson said. "The girls are getting pretty excited."
Perhaps just a smidge excited.
The Bulldogs came into last Wednesday's regional championship with several regional title games to their credit, but no championship plaques.
In the finals, MHS faced Silver Lake, a team the Bulldogs never had defeated before.
That all changed last week in Oskaloosa.
McLouth ousted Silver Lake, 1-0, in the championship game. The win gave the Bulldogs their first state berth in school history. It also marked Silver Lake's first loss of the season.
"We played 21 innings of error-free ball at regionals and didn't allow a run," Patterson said. "And that's why we're getting the opportunity to go to state."
In April, Silver Lake and McLouth played a doubleheader marathon the Eagles swept, 1-0 in 10 innings and 2-1 in 11.
But Silver Lake, which has won seven state titles, including the last two, wasn't charmed in its third meeting this season against McLouth.
The Eagles ended their year at 20-1, while McLouth enters state at 15-4. MHS will be the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Herington-White City (20-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Bill Burke Sports Complex in Manhattan.
At regionals, the Bulldogs held their three opponents scoreless. The Bulldogs defeated Pleasant Ridge, 2-0, and Oskaloosa, 1-0, before playing Silver Lake.
"Oskaloosa is one of our arch-rivals, so is Pleasant Ridge," Patterson said. "We rode the high off beating Oskaloosa through the first few innings against Silver Lake.
"And I really think there came a time in the game when they said, 'Ok, Silver Lake is beatable.'"
At Thursday's practice, the players were nursing some injuries. Kendall Patterson was tending to a torn muscle in her upper back, along with a knee injury she sustained after taking a foul ball off her knee last Wednesday.
Stacey Stauch, while making a "beautiful catch" against the fence at regionals, hit the fence and intensified some of her back problems.
Throw in various aches and pains after last Wednesday's intense regional games, and it was time for a change of pace.
The girls ate popsicles and had a water balloon fight.
"We got out water balloons and they doused me and that kind of stuff," Patterson said.
That, the first-year MHS coach said, helped the girls get recharged for a good practice on Friday.
"I think that relieved a lot of the stress," Patterson said. "If you make a big deal about the game, if you put so much pressure on them to perform, It's not always the best way to attack these things."
Pumped up for the Bulldogs
The squad will have a joint pep rally at 3 p.m. today at the high school with track standout Lena Poll, who will compete in four events at the state meet in Wichita this weekend.
Several people have taken notice of the Bulldogs' accomplishments this spring.
"I fielded phone calls from people I haven't heard from in a long time wishing us luck," Patterson said.
The softball team will leave at noon Friday. A win against Herington-White City would put McLouth in the state semifinals against Hoisington (22-1) or Riverton (17-5) and one step closer to a title. A loss would end the Bulldogs' breakthrough season.
"Outside of our track program, as far as girls sports, there haven't been a lot of trips to state in anything for years," Patterson said. "Honestly, I don't know whether they know how to react."
Regardless of how the Bulldogs handle the hoopla, Patterson has a good feeling about the opening game.
"In terms of getting ready for the game, I think we're going to be ready to go by Friday," Patterson said.