Survival of the toughest
After 22 innings, Lansing takes two from Tonganoxie
Sure, fans expected to witness an edge-of-your-seat affair when arguably the top two pitchers in the Kaw Valley League went head-to-head.
That said, Monday still was absolutely ridiculous.
The Tonganoxie softball team sent senior ace Amie Riddle to the mound against Lansing High sophomore KVL first-teamer Brittney Lang for a twinbill that went the distance and then some at Lansing City Park.
Lansing swept the series, 2-1 and 4-3, but the games lasted a combined 22 innings. Game one took nine innings, and the nightcap lasted 13.
LHS coach Terry Cornett said his players seized the opportunity to prove how tough they were.
"I didn't doubt them, and I don't think they doubted themselves," he said. "They knew it was theirs to win."
Lang threw 16 1/3 innings for LHS and freshman Rachel Milnark went 5 2/3. Riddle threw 20 of the 22 for THS.
The first game lasted nine innings and was scoreless through eight. Both pitchers had one-hitters going at that point, but the bats came alive in the ninth. Lindsey Himpel led off the top of the ninth for THS with a sharp double to left. She then scored on a base hit by Melissa Pratt for a 1-0 lead.
Lansing (9-3, 4-1) answered in the bottom of the ninth. Keasla Hundley hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Amanda Darrow walked. Alyssa Donnelson lined out but advanced the runners. Then Rachel Milnark laced a two-run double.
The game-winning hit gave Milnark a sense of redemption after taking a foul ball off of her right index finger during her first at-bat. She broke the same finger a few weeks ago, and it was almost finished healing.
"It was getting back to normal, and then it got hit and it didn't feel good," she said. "(Winning) makes me feel better, though."
Lang was equally stellar as she allowed four hits and struck out 18. Riddle limited LHS to three hits.
The big changes in game two were that both teams started hitting consistently and Milnark replaced Lang on the mound.
Himpel singled and scored on a double by Pratt to give THS a 1-0 lead in the first inning. LHS answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Lansing added two more runs in the fourth for a 3-1 lead, but Tonganoxie loaded the bases in the sixth and tied the game. Lang then returned to the mound for the Lions. She closed out the inning and then struck out 14 the rest of the way.
Sophomore Natalie Loreti scored the winning run on a base hit by junior Alyssa Donnelson in the bottom of the 13th.
The tough sweep could be just the springboard Lansing needs to spark a return to the state tournament. Milnark hopes so.
"I think it will kind of pull us together now that we know we can come back and beat somebody when we're down," she said. "We have the strength now, the knowledge and confidence that we can do whatever we want if we play together and stick together."