by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s softball magicians reached into their bag of tricks for yet another spectacular comeback Saturday but couldn’t come pull a second one out of the hat.
Trailing 5-0 after five innings, the Blue Devils scored seven runs in the final two innings to end Hesston’s 23-game winning streak 7-6 in the opening round of the NJCAA DII District D tournament at Topeka’s Hummer Field but then dropped a 3-2 pitcher’s duel to No. 3 seeded Johnson County in the second round of the double elimination playoffs.
The loss dropped KCKCC (37-19) into a loser’s bracket clash.
“I thought we played very well all around,” KCKCC coach Lana Ross said. “I think we’re playing our best ball of the year and that’s what you want, to peak at this time.”
Things couldn’t have looked much worse for the Blue Devils against Hesston in the opener. Facing the conference’s No. 1 pitcher and Freshman of the Year, Chelsea Smith (20-4), the Blue Devils were not only down 5-0 entering the sixth inning but faced a 5-2 deficit heading into the seventh.
Hesston had taken a 2-0 lead in the third on four hits and widened the lead to 5-0 in the fourth, the big blow a triple by Sadie Leatherman.
KCKCC’s 2-run rally in the sixth was ignited by a single by Alexis Rymer and double by Mackenzie Pinkerton, both of whom scored on a single by catcher Jennica Messer.
The first five Blue Devils to come to the plate reached base in their game-winning 5-run seventh inning. Devin Purcell drilled the first pitch of the inning for a double and Shay Grosstephan walked to set up one of the game’s biggest plays, a run-scoring bunt by cleanup hitter Kaylee Arnzen that was thrown away when no one covered first base.
Rymer just missed tying the game with a 225-foot double off the top of the wall in left to cut the KCKCC deficit to 5-4 and brought Amy Bretano to the mound in relief of Smith. A walk to Pinkerton loaded the bases and set up the play of the game.
Alaina Howe grounded to short as Arnzen scored the tying run and a throw to third attempting to cut down Rymer got away and Rymer scored followed by Pinkerton with a head-long slide at the plate.
“I knew I wanted Arnzen to squeeze bunt but not until the second pitch,” Ross said. “Then Rymer must missed a home run and then we took advantage of their mistakes.”
After a leadoff double off Grosstephan to start the seventh, Pinkerton came on for a save, enticing a pair of ground balls, the second that scored a run, and then ending it with a strikeout.
The Blue Devils finished with 10 hits. Devlin had two doubles and a single; Rymer doubled and singled twice and Pinkerton had two singles to lead the way.
The Blue Devils managed only three hits against Johnson County in the 3-2 second game as freshman Kyleigh Lay won a pitching duel from Pinkerton, who allowed just seven hits.
The Cavaliers jumped in front 2-0 in the third inning on three straight doubles, the last two driving in runs by Kerry Murphy and Hallie Henderson.
KCKCC bounced right back to tie in the bottom of the third. Britney Smith drew a walk and Hannah Redick singled. Both moved up a base on Purcell’s sacrifice and scored easily when Arnzen grounded a single to left.
The Blue Devils’ only other serious threat came in the second inning when Rymer tripled and Pinkerton walked but Lay escaped on a fly ball and strikeout.
JCCC scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the fourth on a single, sacrifice and two-out double. Lay took it from there, retiring the final 13 Blue Devils in order.