Lansing takes down Tongie
Lions make clutch plays against Chieftains, keep Kaw Valley League title hopes alive
Tonganoxie The Lansing High and Tonganoxie softball teams staged the biggest prizefight of the season Tuesday at the Tonganoxie Fairgrounds.
At stake was the upper hand in the race for first place in the Kaw Valley League. After a back-and-forth slugfest, it was Lansing senior Jessica Stark who delivered the knockout blow. Her two-run double in the seventh inning gave LHS a 4-2 victory and created a logjam at the top of the standings.
Tonganoxie now is 6-1 in the KVL. Lansing is 5-1 with two games to go. A three-way race was broken up, though, when Mill Valley - the team that handed Lansing its only league loss - fell Tuesday night to Santa Fe Trail.
Now it's a two-team race and Lansing owns the head-to-head advantage.
"The girls, you can tell, they want it. I mean they really want it," LHS coach Terry Cornett said. "They really want this so bad."
The Lansing program has accomplished much in its short history, the most notable feat being a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament in 2004. The Lions never have won a league title, though.
If Lansing can beat Piper at 4:30 p.m. today at Lansing City Park and then beat Basehor-Linwood on Wednesday, the program would claim its first league title.
"We're tied for first right now and we've never, ever done that," Stark said. "We haven't even had a chance to do it before, so it's just one more thing we get to do."
Of course, the only reason the Lions still are in the hunt is because they knocked off the Chieftains.
That didn't come easy.
The Lions (10-4) claimed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when sophomore Amanda Darrow smashed a double to left-center field and then scored on senior Nichole Twitchel's base hit up the middle. The Chieftains struck back with three straight hits in the bottom of the fourth. Those hits led to two runs. The Lions were quick to answer as senior Nicole Holland smashed a double and then scored when Twitchel reached base on an error. That tied the game 2-2.
Freshman pitcher Brittney Lang retired the Chieftains in order in the next two innings. That set up the big finish. Holland flew out to left to start the seventh inning. Darrow then reached on a walk. Twitchel flew out to center for the second out. Sophomore Morgan Chiles then ripped a single up the middle. That set up Stark's final at-bat.
Tonganoxie center fielder Tracie Hileman had robbed Lansing players of hits to the gap all day with a series of running grabs, but Stark hit this one deeper. The ball found the grass and allowed Darrow and Chiles to score.
"She had to put a charge in it," Cornett said of Stark's hit. "And she did."
Lansing fended off a final Tonganoxie rally in the bottom of the seventh. The Chieftains put two runners on base with one out. Twitchel scooped up the ball and flung a no-look toss to Lang at the plate. The throw was perfect and Ronnie Grizzle was called out trying to score from third. Lang then struck out the final batter to end the game.
"That game is really big because Tongie is always a really big competitor with us," said Twitchel, who had two hits and two RBI in the victory. "It will definitely help our confidence."
Tonganoxie claimed a 5-1 victory in the nightcap, but only the first game counts in the league standings. Lansing took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Darrow singled and later scored on a passed ball, but that was all the offense the Lions could muster.
The Chieftains tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first. They plated three more in the second on as six straight batters reached base. The Lions had a chance to rally in the fourth when they got runners on second and third with one out, but a ground ball and a strikeout ended the inning. The Chieftains added an insurance run in the sixth.
Cornett said the Lions must improve their focus in game two.
"Not to take anything away from them, but they've got to learn to be consistent," he said. "Regionals is coming up, and that's the time when you win that first game and you're playing again about 30 minutes later."