Cards deny Chieftains shot at return state trip
Although it was a breezy Monday afternoon at Basehor's Field of Dreams complex, the tears that welled up in most of the Tonganoxie softball team members' eyes probably didn't come as a result of the dust.
The Chieftains lost to the Eudora Cardinals 5-3 Monday in the first round Class 4A regional play, effectively ending their season and any hopes of a second straight state appearance.
Despite the loss, coach Diane Titterington only had positive things to say about her team.
"Our girls just didn't give up," Titterington said. "As soon as they were down 3-0, they didn't give up. They buckled down and tied it up. We just couldn't get hits when we needed it. Sometimes the best teams don't win. I still feel we could play any team in the state. I'm very proud of them."
In the first inning, Tonganoxie had no trouble dealing with Eudora's pitcher, Brynn Hamilton, but was unable to acclimate to the strong infield defense. Within minutes, Tonganoxie racked up three outs.
Then the Cardinals came out guns blazing in the first inning, scoring three runs before the Chieftain defense was able to put them down for the count.
It wasn't until the top of the fourth that Tonganoxie made its presence felt in a big way. Tonganoxie stole a run-in after a Cardinal error. Then Sammie Rush got a double, which was followed by a walk. Finally Lauren Himpel smacked a triple and ran the two girls home. The game was tied up.
"Finally we were starting to make a connection," Titterington said about the fourth inning. "We knew we were able to hit off the pitcher -- she had some speed but didn't add anything to the ball. Once we got a couple girls running, we were doing well."
Both teams maintained the tie until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Cardinals broke through and scored two runs. The Chieftains were never able to recover.
Titterington said Eudora posed some tough competition, namely in
its hitting. "They have three really good hitters, which we knew coming into the
game," Titterington said. "We just didn't want to give them many pitches they could hit well off of, although we did have some tremendous speed in out outfield and we were able to get after mostly anything."
Overall, Melissa Pratt went 3-for-4, hitting a double in the Tonganoxie-led fourth inning. Pitcher and varsity senior, Amie Riddle, also had a successful game, with nine strikeouts in six innings. Riddle only gave up one walk.
Titterington said it would be difficult for her team to deal with the loss, especially in spite of all the high expectations the team had coming into the season created from the very successful 2006 season -- when the team went 20-4 and qualified for state for the first time in school history.
"It's a tremendous disappointment," Titterington said. "The whole season, we expected to have some more wins, but it's hard to get that kind of continuity all year when we have games canceled because of rain.
"It's hardest on Amie being the only senior on varsity. She's invested so much on this team and been part of varsity all four years. She's been hitting so well."