From time to time Saturday during the Class 5A softball championship, Bishop Carroll senior Kelsey Jones could not help but look beyond the center field fence.
There stood a couple dozen Carroll students, including guys dressed as a Star Wars storm trooper and the Burger King. They sang jingles, cheered and, most of all, begged for an Eagles home run.
Jones delivered one right into the heart of the group, part of a three-run fifth inning that helped seal Carroll’s 6-1 victory over Blue Valley Stilwell.
Carroll (23-2) won its first softball state title since 2004.
“It was amazing,” Jones said. “It was a line drive, so I wasn’t sure it was out. But when I saw it go to those guys, it felt so great.”
The game’s pattern was established in the first inning, really. Carroll starter Jessica Haffner, a freshman, walked two of the first three batters she faced.
But a strikeout and foul pop-up ended the inning. Haffner and her defense combined to strand two more runners in the second inning. Nine Tigers were stranded in the game, six in scoring position.
In the bottom of the first, Carroll’s Kaitlyn Carey reached on an infield single and stole second base. She scored on Clara Savage’s slap double, and Savage came home on a Sarah Balderas single down the first-base line.
Before Blue Valley had recorded an out, Bishop Carroll led 2-0 lead.
“It was so big to get off to a start like that,” Eagles coach Angie Dal Pazzo said. “We talk about making key plays and scoring key runs. We did both early.”
Carroll put the game away in the fifth. After Jones’ home run, Erica Hampton singled to center field.
Then Colby Dresher hit a rocket that sailed far beyond the fence and even the student section.
“I pretty much knew it was out,” Dresher said. “I was so excited.”
Carroll’s defense, keyed all day by Savage at shortstop, made the final big play. With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, Blue Valley’s Kylie Tanner singled to center field. Carroll’s Hunter Hogan, who started the game in left field, scooped the ball and gunned down the Tigers’ Becca McDonald at home to end the game.
“That is how it’s been all weekend for us,” Dal Pazzo said. “We had complete efforts from everyone all tournament. And to do it in Wichita, it was just fantastic.”
St. Thomas Aquinas 6, Hays 1
St. Thomas Aquinas bounced back from the semifinal defeat versus eventual champion Bishop Carroll, and took care of second-seeded Hays, 6-1. St. Thomas Aquinas finishes the season witha record of 20-5, while Hays ends their campaign at 22-3.
Jeffrey Parson can be seen weekly on KWCH’s “Sports Sunday.” He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @sportsjeff44.