WICHITA, Kan.—For many softball teams around the state, the early season schedule is about getting your legs under you, and seeing some soft live pitching in order to build up to the tough games at the middle and end of the year.
That is not the case for Bishop Carroll and Maize. Maize, the defending 6A state champion from two years ago, and Bishop Carroll the defending 5A state champion, the first doubleheader of the season is a litmus test between two of the best programs in the state.
And as Game 2 of the double-dip proved, the two schools are starting the year out as even as they could possibly be.
Maize found itself down in the second game and needed a rally to pick up a 7-4 win over Carroll to take a leg up in the doubleheader.
In the second game, Carroll appeared to be on the path to an easy win to get the split, when Maize mounted another rally. Two runs for Maize in the seventh forced extra innings where Kelsey Stewart blasted an inside-the-park grand Slam to go up 11-7 over Carroll in the eighth.
With nothing left to do but turn off the lights and call it a night, Carroll answered with four runs to tie the game at 11-11, and force a ninth inning where Clara Savage blasted a slap the other way for a triple that ended with the junior shortstop scoring to give Carroll a 12-11 win.
“That felt awesome,” said Savage. “I knew it was far, one of my best slaps, so it was awesome. And I knew I just had to run to get as far as I could.”
Carroll built up an early lead with opportune hitting from Savage and Lauren Buchanan who drove in a run apiece for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, Maize senior catcher Kate James came to the plate and looked to cut the lead in half with a base hit. But Carroll centerfielder robbed James of a RBI, gunning down a runner at the plate to preserve the 2-0 lead.
Maize got on the board in the fifth with a Peyton Jones blast over the fence in left-center to cut the Carroll lead to 2-1. But the Lady Golden Eagles struck back in the bottom half with a 4-run fifth, highlighted by a 2-RBI double from Jordyn Miller to extend the lead to 6-1.
The Lady Eagles answered with a 4-run sixth, after a 3-run no-doubt homerun off the bat of Tori Gloudeman.
Carroll picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to go up 7-5, just three outs away from a win.
But it wasn’t that simple. Maize took advantage of a couple of Carroll miscues to plate a pair to tie the game at 7-7 after seven.
And it seemed like seven was going to be lucky for Maize after Stewart placed a ball just off the outstretched glove of Miller for an inside-the-park grand slam.
“I guess if you tick (Carroll) off bad enough, they come back with a lot of fight,” said Carroll manager Angie Dal Pozzo. “They wanted to win. They’re an aggressive bunch and they pulled together as a team and I think they did a great job tonight.”
Buchanan dented the scoreboard first for Carroll in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI. Taylor Schawe drove in another run on a sacrifice, and a third run came across the plate when a pitch got away from the catcher.
Mary Jo Peter evened the score at 11 with an RBI to force a ninth inning about three hours after the start of the second game.
When Savage came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the Maize outfield pulled up extremely shallow, as it had all game, to take away the slap. In Savage’s final plate appearance of the night, playing shallow bit Maize.
The Carroll shortstop put a charge into the ball that carried well over the heads of the shallow outfielders and resulted in 2-out triple to keep the inning alive.
A wild pitch with Savage on third allowed her to score, ending the game with a 12-11 Carroll win.
“I was gone,” said Savage of her reaction to the ball getting by the catcher. “It is wonderful. Nine innings, that is awesome.”