Dream realized: Freshman drives in winning run as Basehor-Linwood softball squad returns to state
All season long, Candice Jennings has dreamed of playing in the softball state tournament.
Jennings, a Basehor-Linwood High School freshman, has heard about the team’s trip to Salina last season from the older players.
She’s heard about the fun times in the hotel; the experience of playing in state and what a great experience it was.
She has heard all about the thrill of winning the state championship from Hannah Tush, Shelby Pierce, Brooke Redmond and others.
Together, they set a goal of returning to play at state this year with each player contributing when called upon and all working to play smart softball.
In the sixth inning of Tuesday’s Class 4A regional championship game against Tonganoxie, Jennings delivered the game-winning hit, realizing a season-long goal and adding her name to the list of Bobcats to complete in the state tournament.
With the score 1-1, Jennings was up and Tush was on third base. Tush started the inning with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Pierce. Tush moved to third on a sacrifice by Allie Kasick and now waited for the freshman to hit.
“I was smiling because I knew she would get a hit,” Tush said.
Jennings hit the first pitch into center field as Tush rushed home. Later, Jennings would say, “I wanted to get Hannah in so we could go. It was one of the best times of my life … exciting.”
With the run, the Bobcats led 2-1 entering the top of the seventh inning. Redmond, the BLHS pitcher, retired Tonganoxie in order and the Bobcats secured a return trip to state where they hope to make new memories and defend their title.
Players celebrated the victory with hugs, dances and smiles. Then the championship plaque was presented.
“It is very satisfying,” coach Susan Mayberry said. “Those in the game realize how difficult it is to accomplish this goal. To go back to state shows the character and the will to win. We are willing to fight. Our goal was to be practicing tomorrow, and we are doing that.”
The Bobcats provided timely hitting against Tonganoxie, and Redmond made a gritty return to the mound. She had not pitched in three weeks because of a back injury and wasn’t sure she would be available to pitch in regionals.
She entered in relief in the semifinal game against Piper, and eventually earned the win. Before the championship game, Mayberry asked Redmond if she would be able to pitch. She said she would try, though she might not have known for sure what would happen.
Redmond was nails in the game. She allowed just four hits and one run. The run came in the second inning when Tiffany Jennings blasted a home run over the center field fence. It was the Chieftains’ only run of the game.
In the bottom of the second, Redmond doubled to drive in a run and tie the score at 1-1. Both teams had opportunities to score in later innings but none did until the Bobcats broke through in the sixth inning.
With the win, Basehor-Linwood advances to the state tournament for the second time in two years. Mayberry said it is a tribute to how hard the players work and what they are willing to do in order to be a good softball team. BLHS has just one senior starter in Pierce and a talented group of juniors who have led the younger players this season, Mayberry said.
“They are just fighters,” she said. “The upperclassmen experienced state last year and have put the younger players on their backs and taken them for a ride. From here on out it is fun.”
Pierce said it means a lot to go to state in her senior season and is excited about the prospect of playing there.