See ya at state!
Lady Bobcats bring home regional championship, head to Salina for 4A state tournament
Destiny was on the side of the Basehor-Linwood Lady Bobcats softball team last Wednesday when they clinched a bid to this year's state tournament by winning their regional tournament in dramatic fashion.
After opening the tournament with a 9-0 perfect game shutout against Bishop Ward, many thought the Lady Bobcats would cruise through the rest of their games. But this would not be the case, and the team was tested to the very end.
Piper stood in the way of making it to the championship game and any chance at state, and it was evident by how hard they played that neither team wanted its season to end.
The Lady Bobcats began the game with two runs in the first inning, and confidence was running high against the team they had already beaten twice this season.
"I think we might have been a little too confident," sophomore Stephanie Barger said.
The Lady Bobcats relaxed with a two run lead, and Piper tied the ballgame with two runs of their own in the fourth inning.
"I was telling them that they're going to come out and try their hardest," junior pitcher Kristal Holland said. "It didn't matter if we'd beaten them twice already."
Both teams, despite putting runners in scoring position throughout the game, were unable to get another run across and the game went into extra innings.
In front of the largest crowd of the season, on their home field, the Lady Bobcats were beginning to feel some pressure. Finally, with two outs in the eighth inning, Piper broke the scoring drought and pushed one across to take the lead, 3-2.
After taking the lead, Piper's No. 5 hitter lined out to freshman third baseman Maggie Schroeder with a runner on second base, and it was do or die time for the Lady Bobcats.
They ran into the dugout and huddled around coach Susan Mayberry for what could have been their last on-the-field meeting of the season.
The tension in the crowd rolled in like a thick fog, and with their children's season on the line, fathers paced and mothers couldn't tell the difference between sunflower seeds and finger nails.
But there was something about this team that wouldn't be denied.
"I could just feel it; sometimes you can't explain the feeling a coach or a team has in that situation," Mayberry said. "With the heart of our lineup coming up, it couldn't have been scripted any better."
No. 2 hitter freshman Jennifer Sirridge was up first but led the inning off with a strike out, and the Lady Bobcats were quickly down to their final two outs.
Freshman Chelsea Patton stepped into the box and decided to take matters into her own hands. She belted the first pitch she saw over the left field wall.
The home crowd erupted as Patton rounded the bags and was mobbed by her teammates as she got to the dugout.
"All I was thinking when I got to the plate was put the ball in play," Patton said. "I went up there with a lot of confidence and just swung as hard as I could."
With one swing of the bat, the Lady Bobcats tied the game at 3-3 and saved their season.
That was all BLHS would get in the eighth, however, and the extra-inning affair dragged on.
After holding off a Piper scare in the 10th inning, Patton would once again find herself up to bat with one out. Working the full count, she drew a walk and took her place on first base, representing the winning run. Holland then popped up to the catcher to make the second out of the inning.
Two singles in a row by sophomores Erin Shore and Barger sealed the deal, and the Lady Bobcats won the game 4-3.
"That game was pressure-packed, and we weren't going down," Mayberry said. "I think we grew up a lot in this game, and we took the next step. It was a huge win for our team."
Feeding off the adrenaline from their dramatic victory and a vivacious crowd, the Lady Bobcats started slow but exploded for five runs in the fourth in the championship game.
They ended up rolling Jeff West 7-1.
"The crowd was awesome and was definitely a momentum builder for us," Mayberry said. "It energizes a team when you've got so much of a positive surrounding."
This marks the first time the Lady Bobcats have made it to state since they finished third in 2000, a team the Mayberry compares to her current one.
Whether or not this Lady Bobcat team is the best she's coached has yet to be determined.
The fourth-seeded Lady Bobcats will face No. 5 seed Chapman in the first round of the state tournament tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Salina. Both teams are 15-6, and Mayberry said she's expecting the game to be a good match-up.
"Chapman is a team very similar to us," Mayberry said. "They're a team that isn't going to quit, and we aren't either."
Mayberry's faith in her team is obvious, even though none of her players have ever been to state. But her confidence comes from the fact that most of her team has played in summer leagues and been in pressure situations before.
"When you get to state, you just have to think you're just playing on a ball field," Mayberry said. "Treat the other team like they have no face, no names, no color.
"Just go out there, play and may the best team win."
The Lady Bobcats could be the best team, at least the best chance for BLHS to get a state title, and that's something these ladies would very much like to do.
"It would mean so much for these girls, the school and the community," Mayberry said. "But we aren't thinking like that. We've got to deal with Chapman first and remember what got us here."
What got them there was solid pitching from Holland and an aggressive attitude at the plate, a combination Mayberry calls "Bobcat Softball."