Chieftains drop two marathons
Lansing Sure, fans expect to witness an edge-of-your-seat affair when arguably the top two pitchers in the Kaw Valley League go head-to-head.
Monday, however, was absolutely ridiculous.
The Tonganoxie High softball team sent senior ace Amie Riddle to the mound against Lansing sophomore KVL first-teamer Brittney Lang for a twinbill that went the distance and then some at Lansing City Park.
LHS swept the series, 2-1 and 4-3, but the games lasted a combined 22 innings. Lang threw 16 1/3 innings for LHS and freshman Rachel Milnark went 5 2/3. Riddle threw the 20, while Amanda Albert threw the final two.
The defeats dropped the Chieftains' record to 5-5 overall and 2-2 in the league, but more than anything the losses left them flat-out exhausted.
"They were down about the losses," first-year THS coach Diane Titterington said. "At the same time, they're not like, 'Oh man.' It was very positive. Of course, they were tired."
The first game lasted nine innings and was scoreless through eight. Both pitchers had one-hitters going at that point, but the bats came alive in the ninth. Junior Lindsey Himpel led off the top of the ninth for THS with a sharp double to left. She then scored on a base hit by junior Melissa Pratt for a 1-0 lead.
Lansing (9-3, 4-1) answered in the bottom of the ninth. Keasla Hundley hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Amanda Darrow walked. Alyssa Donnelson grounded out but advanced the runners. Then Rachel Milnark laced a walk-off two-run double.
The Lions' big finish spoiled a dandy of a performance by Riddle as she allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out eight.
"Amie did a great job pitching tonight," Titterington said. "It was hard to see her lose, especially that first game."
Lang allowed four hits and struck out 18 for Lansing.
Big changes in game two were that both teams started hitting consistently and Milnark replaced Lang on the mound.
Himpel singled and scored on a double by Pratt, giving THS a 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two. LHS answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Lansing added two more runs in the fourth for a 3-1 lead, but Tonganoxie loaded the bases in the sixth and plated Pratt and Riddle to tie the game.
Lang then returned to the mound for the Lions. She closed out the inning and then struck out 14 the rest of the way. She needed every one of them because Riddle continued to keep hitters off balance before LHS finally put the game away in the bottom of the 13th.
Titterington praised her players for their effort during the long doubleheader, but she lamented the lack of timely hits.
"They know that they're playing some good ball," she said. "But they also know they need to step it up offensively."
For a Tonganoxie program that basically returned its entire squad from last year's state tournament team that finished the season at 20-4, it's already surpassed last year's number of losses.
But the key, according to Titterington, is to keep plugging away toward regionals.
"They'll put it together; I fully believe that," Titterington said. "If anyone thinks we're not the team we were, I think they know better."