Lady Bobcats give one away at state tourney
Other than the color of their uniforms, Basehor-Linwood and Chapman were almost identical in every way. Both finished their seasons 15-6, both pulled out some squeakers this season and both had an excellent pitcher on the mound.
The biggest difference in the two teams was that Chapman had been to the state tournament recently and the Lady Bobcats, consisting mostly of underclassmen, had never made it this far.
The only person who knew what to expect at state was head coach Susan Mayberry, whose last state tournament appearance was in 2000.
"I could have sat there and told them about it till I was blue in the face, but until you get there, until you experience it you don't truly know what to expect," Mayberry said. "We told them not to take anything for granted and take advantage of every opportunity they got."
The Lady Bobcats seemed to be soaking up every minute of the experience beginning with their farewell. Faculty members, the dance team, parents and students all saw them off as they departed for Salina last Thursday.
"We have had a lot of support this season, and it was great to get the sendoff that we did," Mayberry said.
The Lady Bobcats arrived in Salina giddy with anticipation. After a practice and team dinner on Thursday, the flashes of disposable cameras and smiles were abundant capturing every Kodak moment possible.
"Having such a young team we wanted them to have a lot of fun and really enjoy themselves, but we told them that when Friday rolled around we needed to focus," Mayberry said.
Friday would come all too quickly, and the jitters of playing at state finally set in. Any time a team experiences this high level of play for the first time, it's hard for a professional athlete to contain their emotions, let alone a 16-year-old.
But junior Kristal Holland seemed to be the only Bobcat somewhat unfazed by the importance of the game, and according to Mayberry, looked better than she had all season long.
When the game began, it seemed that the Lady Bobcats had settled down. They took a scoreless tie into the fourth inning. Riding the arm of Holland, it seemed the game would be the pitchers' dual that everyone had expected.
With runners on first and second in the third inning, freshman Shannon Carlin lined out to the right fielder and freshman Maggie Schroeder was doubled off at first, taking some of the wind from the Bobcats sail.
The top of the fourth would be the Lady Bobcats unraveling. They made three errors, all on routine plays, and allowed Chapman to score three runs.
"We probably had enough adrenaline running through our system to fill a hot air balloon, and I feel we were one hit away from scoring first," Mayberry said. "But obviously when you give up an inning like that it kind of deflates you as a team and changes the momentum of the game."
Unfortunately the Lady Bobcats weren't able to get their bats going, and Chapman's senior pitcher only gave up two hits all game.
Holland tried matching her counterpart and only gave up three hits in the game, but Chapman eventually pushed one more run across and won the game 4-0. All four runs were unearned for Holland.
"When you get to the state tournament it comes down to who's going to make the plays and who's not," Mayberry said. "It wasn't our best game ever, but I'll take a loss in the state tournament rather than one in the championship game of regionals."
Despite the tears that came after their season finally ended, the Lady Bobcats and their fans agreed it had been a great season.
Now with playoff experience under the belt, this potent Lady Bobcat team will return every one of its players. And as the BLHS softball program continues to enjoy success, teams around the league are marking down the Bobcats as the team to beat, but that's the way they like it.
"Now that we've been there and seen what it's like, we can set our goals higher for next year," Mayberry said. "We took the first step to success."