Himpel shines on Senior Night
Tonganoxie sweeps Bishop Ward
No one can accuse Lauren Himpel of having senioritis.
The Tonganoxie High softball team’s senior center fielder was plenty motivated for Senior Night on Thursday, and she helped lead the Chieftains to a sweep of Bishop Ward at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
With the end of her high school career in sight, Himpel tore it up in 2-1 and 4-1 Tonganoxie victories, going five for six at the plate with two triples, a double and three runs scored. The only thing she didn’t do was pitch — a scenario that has become a running joke between her and THS coach Diane Titterington.
With the Chieftains leading 4-0 in the sixth inning and the close of Senior Night fast approaching, Himpel asked Titterington if she would be throwing (something she has never done in her prep career) in the seventh.
“In the eighth inning, after the game’s over, I’ll let you pitch,” the coach quipped.
Later, Titterington said Himpel actually is quite capable of pitching and the coach might have put her in the circle if there were two outs with nobody on base. Those parameters weren’t present though.
“We just needed to win,” Titterington said. “We needed the outs.”
Himpel made both victories possible with her production but she said she didn’t arrive at the park thinking about individual stats.
“It was time for me to step up and take control and do something,” she said, adding that the victories were big for the team.
Offensively, Himpel said her triple down the right-field line in the second game was her Senior Night highlight because she found the discipline to wait on an outside pitch. However, she was just as excited about the energy displayed by her fellow Chieftains in support of the team’s two seniors — Himpel and right fielder Emily Gripka.
“My teammates knew it was Senior Night so they were extra excited and wanted to win — not like they don’t any other time,” she said, noting that every time THS made a big play, the dugout erupted.
Her coach said Himpel has been a motivating leader for Tonganoxie.
“The girls just rally around her,” Titterington said. “She’s been a great leader all year. When she’s hot, it just helps other girls too.”
The coach praised Himpel for doing a little bit of everything — catching long fly balls, stealing bases, hitting and throwing.
“Between the two games,” Titterington said, “it was probably her best night all year but she’s just a phenomenal player.”
Himpel said the reason THS got two wins, though, was because of its pitchers.
“Pitching-wise, we didn’t give up as many walks tonight, so that helped a lot,” she said. “The defense could actually play defense.”
Junior Angela Jacobs threw a complete game in the 2-1 win and her younger sister, sophomore Tiffany Jacobs, pitched five innings of relief in the 4-1 win after Nikki Pennington started the game with two shutout innings.
Titterington said the team got seven good innings in both victories.
“Previously, we would have that one bad inning where we had a few walks, a few hits, some errors or something like that,” she said.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Wolken drove in three runs and had a triple in the sweep. Brooklyn Kerbaugh scored twice.
THS was swept on Friday by Perry-Lecompton, the Kaw Valley League’s top team. The Kaws won the first game, 1-0, and the second contest, 6-2.
Tonganoxie plays at Piper on Tuesday. Then, THS begins regional play on Monday at Eudora.