by Alan Hoskins
One of the best Kansas City Kansas Community College softball seasons in recent years came to a disappointing end Saturday but just like the Lady Blue Devil basketball season, it took a nationally ranked team to end it.
Ranked No. 8 in Division II, Highland (40-9) earned its fifth straight trip to the NJCAA national tournament by edging KCKCC 4-1 in the opening round and then defeated Independence 7-5 and 6-3 to win the double elimination tournament in Topeka.
“A very difficult way to end the season, not because of the loss but because we’re losing such a great group of sophomores,” said a tearful KCKCC coach Kacy Tillery, whose Blue Devils (32-15) rebounded from the opening loss with a 3-0 blanking of Cloud County only to be eliminated when Independence rallied for five runs in the seventh inning for a 6-3 win.
Despite the difficult season-ending losses, Tillery was especially proud of the Blue Devils’ effort, particularly defensively where the Blue Devils were errorless in two of the three games.
“Mierra Morrisette made one of the most incredible catches I’ve ever seen in leftfield, a somersaulting catch in which she came up with the ball behind her back,” Tillery said. “I was afraid she’d broken her arm.”
Offensively, KCKCC was led by sophomore catcher Megan Dike, who drove in five runs on two doubles and four singles in the three games, and Justice Scales, who had a double and four singles.
One bad inning was the difference in KCKCC’s opening round loss to Highland. Leading 1-0 in the fifth, the Scotties bunched four of their eight hits and a walk – all with two out – to score three times and lead 4-0.
KCKCC got a run back in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Amanda Holroyd, hit batsman and an RBI single by Dike but left the bases loaded on a line drive out after a single by Ashley Henington. The Blue Devils also had two runners on with one out in the seventh before a game-ending double play.
Leslie Ford bounced back after the opening loss to scatter five singles and only one after the third inning in the 3-0 win over Cloud. She struck out five, walked one. KCKCC took a 1-0 lead in the third on an error and singles by Scales and Morrisette and added two more in the fifth when Dike delivered a two-out, two-run double following a single by Scales, error and walk. Dike had three hits and Scales and Morrisette two each.
Trailing 1-0, KCKCC scored three times in the bottom of the sixth for a 3-1 lead against Independence only to have the Pirates tie the game in the seventh on a two-run home run with one out and then win it by scoring three runs on four straight hits, two doubles and two singles, all with two out. A sacrifice fly by Hanna Barnhart and Dike’s two-run single scored KCKCC’s three runs in the sixth after loading the bases on two errors and a hit batsman. KCKCC managed just four hits, two by Dike and only one after the second inning.