Braves win five straight to turn season around before regionals
Two weeks ago, Bonner Springs softball coach Denise Chowning stood outside her team’s dugout after the Braves were swept by Basehor-Linwood. The bleachers emptied and the players didn’t take long to pack their equipment.
After losing eight straight, there wasn’t much to celebrate. Yet there weren’t many long faces either, and on that evening Chowning was confident when she identified the final week of the season as the time in which the Braves could reverse their previous misfortunes before regionals.
Fourteen days and five-straight victories later, Chowning is now saying that the Braves (11-8) are finally playing to their potential.
The season’s rally began last Thursday, when Bonner Springs traveled to Tonganoxie.
The Braves set the tone in the first of two as Geena Harris was dominant at the plate and on the mound. The junior pitched seven shutout innings, hit a home run and batted in three runs in the 6-0 victory. Previously beset by injuries and error-prone play, the Braves ended their slump emphatically.
Harris isn’t the only Brave capable of doing damage on multiple fonts. Junior Bryanna Hammer hit a homer of her own to lead a 16-hit 11-5 victory to give the Braves the doubleheader sweep and their first winning streak since they started the season 6-0.
Hammer split time with Harris pitching and went 4-for-4 at the plate, including two doubles.
The Braves had to rally after the Chieftains put together a five-run third inning. After scoring three runs in the fifth to tie the game at 5-all, the Braves scored once more in the sixth and went off for five runs in the seventh to put the game away, all while shutting Tonganoxie out in the final four innings.
Cassady Hollaway also drove in two runs in the game, while Harris and Breanna Tendick each went 3-for-5.
Harris went on to hit two more home runs during the Braves’ three-game Turner Invitational championship run over the weekend. It was during these three games to conclude the regular season that Chowning saw it all come together again.
Bonner Springs averaged more than 13 hits on its way to the tournament championship, perhaps none of its three tournament victories more telling than Saturday’s 12-7 slugfest against St. James Academy.
The Thunder had long spent 2012 in the discussion for the class of 4A softball. The newly resurgent Braves found themselves trailing St. James, 6-4, through four innings before regaining the lead with a four-run fifth inning.
Bonner Springs went on to win 12-7, matching the Thunder’s 12 hits with a dozen of its own. Hammer led the way with three RBIs and Harris, Kylee Timberlake and Mikaela Bennett each added two RBIs.
Against the tournament hosts on Saturday, Bonner Springs rallied from a 7-0 deficit against Turner with a seven-run fourth inning, winning 10-8. Harris again had three RBIs (including a double and a triple) and was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate.
Tendick added a 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs and a double. Samantha Ricci-Weller hit a triple as part of her 2-for-4 showing.
And finally, against Blue Valley North, the Braves again put together a dozen hits and rallied from an early deficit to win their fifth straight and earn a late-season tournament title just before the postseason began.
“It was an awesome feeling for all of the girls,” Chowning said. “A great way to go into regionals.”
The Braves topped the Mustangs, 12-7, and were paced by a 3-for-5 performance by Tendick and Harris’ 3-for-4 showing that included her final home run of the weekend.
The Braves will begin regionals on Monday, May 14, at the Field of Dreams complex in Basehor. Atchison, Basehor-Linwood, Bishop Ward, Piper, Jefferson West, Perry-Lecompton and Tonganoxie will also be vying for a ticket to the state tournament.
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