Olathe South's softball team broke the hearts of Wichita Northwest, then pulled similar magic against the Maize Eagles at the Class 6A state tournament.
The Falcons reached Sunday's Class 6A championship game against powerhouse Olathe East with a hard-fought 5-3 semifinal victory over top-seeded Maize Saturday. That came on the heels of a 5-4 rally against Wichita Northwest earlier Saturday. Olathe South handed Olathe East its only loss this season.
Olathe East captured the seventh state championship in school history with a 5-2 victory over Olathe South Sunday at Blue Valley West High School.
After trailing 4-0, Maize drew within 4-3 in the sixth inning. Emily Griggs ignited the rally with a leadoff single and Kelsey Stewart followed with a single to right field. Griggs raced home on a single by Kate James and the runners moved into scoring position on the throw.
Peyton Jones' clutch double scored Stewart and James to narrow the Falcons' lead to 4-3. Alexa Eisenbart, pinch running for Jones, reached third base on a wild pitch with no out.
But Olathe South pitcher Tess Hart showed her toughness by retiring Sarah Glass, Tori Glouderman and Leah Taliaferro to strand Eisenbart at third base.
"We couldn't get our fourth run scored and that really hurt us," said Maize coach Jenny Meirowsky. "We had to get that runner in. We felt the game would've changed had we tied it."
Maize plays at home with 200-foot fences. Meirowsky said the Eagles hit too many fly balls to the spacious Blue Valley West park that stretches to 230 in the gaps and 235 feet to centerfield.
"Hart is a good pitcher and she was hitting her spots," Meirowsky said. "We started hitting the ball on the ground. But we didn't find enough gaps today."
Maize (22-2) ended up shy of its goal of winning the school's third state softball championship behind seven seniors.
"It's been a great season for Maize softball," she said. "It was a fun group of girls to coach. It's disappointing, but Olathe South played well and hit the ball. We know at state competition, you have to play your best."
Shortstop Kim Cole led flawless defense and the Falcons stole three runs with their baserunning to take advantage of two Maize errors.
"We got lucky our first game, but we came out relaxed and did everything right against Maize," said Michael Allen, Olathe South coach. "We came out with a really focused game against Maize, which was a better team than Wichita Northwest."
The breaks fell the Falcons' way as they benefited from an apparent missed tag on Emily Griggs in the first inning. A hard-hit ball by Sarah Glass that appeared to be touched in fair territory was ruled foul in the second inning.
A successful double steal handed the Falcons a 2-0 lead. Joselynn Yates Dean scored when a throw from catcher Kate James was thrown away by shortstop Kelsey Stewart. Sarah Burks went to third base on Stewart's error and scored on Kelli Halder's base hit. Meirowsky would've liked the baserunner be thrown out at second base with two out.
"We had seen Maize's shortstop play closer to third base, so we decided to send the runner to second base," Allen said. "We got a break when the ball got trapped in Kelsey's glove."
Kahli Barrett's fifth-inning double scored Alex Hugo after a single. Dean's double scored pinch runner Tristyn Delgado for a 4-0 lead off losing pitcher Lauren Grimes (11-2).
Hugo scored a valuable seventh-inning insurance run when she sprinted home from second base on a sacrifice bunt by Cole for a 5-3 lead against relief pitcher Bailey Spencer.
"That was a pre-set play where Hugo never stops after leaving second base if Cole gets the bunt down to the right side," Allen said.
Six-time state softball champion Olathe East cruised into the championship game with a 10-0 victory over 2011 state champion Olathe Northwest.
MAIZE 8, SM EAST 6 -- Maize's seven-run fourth inning boosted the Eagles into the Class 6A semifinals.
Leah Taliaferro drilled a two-run double and Emily Griggs added a two-run single in the seven-run inning. Kiersten Parks, Stewart and James also added RBI singles in the inning.
Maize starter Grimes (11-1) worked into the fifth inning and reliever Spencer threw the final 2 2/3 innings. Shortstop Stewart preserved an 8-4 lead by snaring a line drive and turning a double play in the fifth inning.
OLATHE SOUTH 5, WICHITA NORTHWEST 4 -- The Wichita Grizzlies were two outs away from a rematch with rival Maize High School. But Olathe South scored the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 5-4 first round victory.
Emily Henning's RBI single drove in Cassidy Harbert for a 4-2 lead with three outs left. But the Grizzlies' defense committed three errors and pitcher Mary Henning ended up a hard-luck loser.
In the seventh inning, the Falcons Alyssa Bates singled and scored when Hugo's long fly ball was misplayed. Hugo scored the tying run on Cole's perfect squeeze bunt for a 4-4 tie. Barrett reached on an error with two out. Henning threw a wild pitch and pinch runner Jennifer Gilman stole third base and the Grizzlies' catcher threw the ball away to score the game-winner.
The Falcons' centerfielder Lindsey Pinkham made the game's key defensive play by throwing out Walsh at home on Harbert's single.
OLATHE EAST 10, DERBY 0 -- Six-time state champion Olathe East cruised to a 10-0 opening victory over Derby Saturday morning. Catcher Sam Olson ripped a bases-loaded triple and delivered five RBIs. Allison Stewart ended the game on the 10-run rule with a two-run single that scored Elizabeth Leonard and Olson. Maggie Kling and Kiki Stokes opening the inning with perfect bunt singles.
Olathe East broke the open open with a six-run fourth inning. Leonard, Stewart and Brooks also delivered RBI base hits in the fourth inning.
The Hawks lost in the semifinals to Washburn Rural in the 2011 tournament. Derby (18-5) managed a bunt single by Tori Miller in the third inning. Olathe East pitcher Jenni Brooks struck out seven batters in five innings.
The Hawks gave Derby trouble with perfect bunting and the Panthers paid for several walks.
"We worked really hard on our bunt coverage, but they laid down perfect bunts and they have fast runners," said Derby coach Christine Weve. "Their pitcher did a good job mixing her pitches. That's a fine softball team we played."
OLATHE NORTHWEST 9, WASHBURN RURAL 0 -- Olathe Northwest rolled past Washburn Rural in a rematch of the 2011 state championship game that the Ravens won. Taylor Zimmerman delivered the big blow with a bases-loaded triple in a five-run seventh inning. Lucy Toplikar delivered an RBI double and Katie Hamke had an RBI single.