Softball season ends 1 run from state
Lansing High and Topeka Seaman met in the Class 5A softball regional championship for the third straight year, but for the second time in that span the Lions came out on the losing end.
Seaman won the 2005 title game, 5-0, and Lansing claimed a 7-4 victory in 2006.
Seaman won round three on Thursday when it hung on for a 2-1 victory at Lansing City Park. The Vikings improved to 13-8 with the win. The Lions ended their season with a 15-7 record.
"Last year we were joyous and celebrating," LHS coach Terry Cornett said. "But hey, you've got to take the bitterness with the sweet.
"They've been there (to state), and that's what's probably the hardest part - being there and not being able to get back there : being that close."
LHS sophomore Brittney Lang dominated early as she struck out six in the first three innings and didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. Seaman freshman Erin Greenwood was equally efficient as she struck out three and scattered three hits in the first four innings.
Seaman capitalized on three hits and an error to plate two runs in the top of the fifth. Lansing answered in the bottom of the sixth as Rachel Milnark led off with a single and scored on Breanne Sanders' ground ball. Lang and Jasmine Holland also reached base in the inning on walks, but the Lions were unable to bring them home.
Amanda Darrow earned a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, but Greenwood struck out the next two batters to seal the game. The final out came with Milnark - the team's home run leader and top hitter - at the plate.
"I told her I wouldn't have rather had anybody else up at the plate in the situation as it was," Cornett said. "Gosh, she clubbed four home runs and has been stroking the ball. Who else better to have up there? It just wasn't to be."
Lansing beat Bonner Springs, 7-2, in the first round, but the victory didn't come easily. In fact, Bonner took an early lead before LHS came back.
Tiffany Starks slugged a triple on the first pitch of the game. She then scored when Ashley Espinoza laced a base hit on the second pitch of the game.
Lansing responded with three runs in the bottom of the first. Amanda Darrow and Alyssa Donnelson hit back-to-back singles and Milnark crushed a line-drive three-run homer to left field.
Bonner cut the LHS lead to 3-2 in the top of the third when Chelsea Crouch smacked a leadoff double and then scored on a two-bagger by Cori Wallace.
With Bonner rallying, Lansing brought in Lang to pitch in relief of Milnark. Lang threw the final 4 2/3 innings and struck out eight batters. Meanwhile, the Lions plated two runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth to cushion their lead.
Despite the loss in the regional finals, Lansing should be in good shape next year. With no seniors on the roster, the entire squad will be back. Milnark said that gives the Lions confidence already.
"Since everybody on the team now is going to be here next year, we're going to be more bonded and have more of a team thing where we know we can rely on everybody," she said. "Quite a few of us are going to do something (in the offseason) to make it better."
"We're all really great athletes, and by putting us all together this year we learned where our spots were and we know what we can do," said Darrow, a third-year varsity starter. "Next year we're going to be that much better. We're going to take what we did, put it to the test and do better."