Blue Devils escape one elimination game, but not a second

JCCC ends 38-win KCKCC season 4-2 after Blue Devils blank Murray State 1-0

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College’s best softball season in more than a decade came to an end Sunday but not without a whale of a fight.

Faced with winning three games in one day, the Blue Devils won a pressure-packed 1-0 decision over Murray State (Oklahoma) in an elimination game and then had the tying runs on base in the bottom of the seventh before Johnson County escaped with a 4-2 championship game win in the NJCAA DI District D tournament in Topeka.

Advancing to the district semifinals for the first time since 2014, the Blue Devils finished the season 38-20 while Johnson County (24-12) advances to the NJCAA DII national tournament in Clinton, Mississippi, May 22-25.

“I thought we played well,” KCKCC Coach Lana Ross said. “We had a tough first game and then had to come right back and play a good team like Johnson County and played well in that one.”

Both games went right down to the final pitch Sunday starting with the 1-0 win over Murray State (25-21-1). Shay Grosstephan took a 5-hit shutout into the bottom of the seventh when Murray State mounted its only serious scoring threat of the game – a one-out triple to the fence in right-center field.

The hit brought Mackenzie Pinkerton on in relief and set up the play of the game – or maybe the season. Freshman third baseman Alaina Howe made a diving stop of a ground ball, scrambled to her feet and threw out the tying run at the plate for the second out of the inning.

“Alaina made a great play, saving a run and keep us from having to go extra innings,” Ross said.

The Aggies put the tying run on second on their only walk of the game but Pinkerton finished with a game-ending strikeout on a 3-2 pitch.

Grosstephan (13-6) not only got the pitching win but scored the game’s lone run in the top of the fourth inning. Leading off the inning with a single, she moved up to second on Kaylee Arnen’s sacrifice bunt and raced home when Alexis Rymer rifled a single to center.

Except for the seventh inning triple. Grosstephan allowed only two others Aggies to reach second base and three of the five hits she allowed came with two out. She struck out three and walked none. Rymer had two of KCKCC’s six hits. Arnzen, Grosstephan, Pinkerton and Devin Purcell had the others.

JCCC jumped in front 2-0 in the second inning of the second game, scoring the runs on three singles and an errant throw on a squeeze bunt. The uprising might have been worse had not Blue Devil catcher Brittney Beck caught a runner wandering too far off third.

KCKCC got one run back in the third on a single by Beck, double by Hannah Redick and Devin Purcell’s run-scoring sacrifice fly. The Cavaliers got that run back in the fourth on a one-out triple and a squeeze bunt and the game settled into a pitcher’s duel between Pinkerton and Kerrigan Dixon (15-4). JCCC added what proved to be a huge insurance run in the top of the seventh on a double and two-out single.

The Blue Devils quickly cut their deficit to 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Rymer leading off with a triple and scoring on a double by Pinkerton before they caught a bad break.

Breaking towards third on a Howe ground ball that was misplayed, Pinkerton was ruled out for interference for the game’s first out and Howe placed on first base. A single by Britney Smith put the tying runs on base before Dixon got Redick on a pop fly to end it.

Redick had two of KCKCC’s seven hits while Beck, Grosstephan and Smith added singles to Rymer’s triple and Pinkerton’s double. JCCC collected 10 hits off Pinkerton (16-10).

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