Blue Devils’ playoff goal: Snap Hesston’s 23-game winning streak

Freshmen, left, Mackenzie Pinkerton (16-10) and Shay Grosstephan (13-6) will carry KCKCC’s pitching hopes into the NJCAA Region VI DII District D playoffs in Topeka Saturday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

On March 30, Kansas City Kansas Community College blanked Hesston 4-0 at Hesston.

The Larks (34-11) have not lost since – 23 straight wins heading into Saturday’s re-match with the Blue Devils in the NJCAA Region VI DII District D tournament at the Hummer South Field in Topeka. First pitch is set for 10 a.m.

A win would advance the Blue Devils (36-18) against the Johnson County-Murray State winner at 2 p.m.; a loss and KCKCC will meet the loser of that game, also at 2 p.m.

The remaining games of the double elimination tourney will be played Sunday starting at 10 a.m. with the winner advancing to the national tournament.

Shay Grosstephan (13-6) will pitch the opener; Mackenzie Pinkerton (16-10) will start the second game. Both are freshmen.

“We’re not going to change a thing,” KCKCC coach Lana Ross said. “Shay beat Hesston; Pinkerton was the winner when we beat Johnson County.”

Grosstephan scattered six hits, striking out six and walking one in the 4-0 win at Hesston. She also had a 2-run home run.

“Shay did a real good job of keeping them off balance,” Ross said. “They were never ever able to get anything together. And we played small ball. I think we may have bunted four times in a row. I don’t know if we’ll do that again; it will depend on how the game goes.”

In 133 innings this season, Grosstephan has given up 156 hits, struck out 69 and walked 53 in compiling a 4.21 earned run average. Pinkerton has pitched 151 innings, striking out 130, walking 87 and allowing 180 hits for a 4.82 ERA. As a staff, Blue Devil hurlers have held opponents to a .262 batting average.

The Blue Devils will be facing one of the Jayhawk’s best in Hesston’s Chelsea Smith. Boasting a 2.08 earned run average, Smith is 20-4 with five saves. She’s appeared in 33 games, 23 as a starter with 15 complete games. In 145 innings, she’s given up 90 hits, struck out 227 and walked 61.

“I’m sure they’ll ride her all the way,” Ross said. “She’ll pitch every game; at least that’s what I’d do.”

Smith allowed seven hits, striking out eight and walking one in the 4-0 loss to KCKCC. The Blue Devils dropped a 4-3 decision in the second game at Hesston although outhitting the Larks 10-4. Pinkerton struck out eight, walked two and gave up just three earned runs in the 4-hit effort.

Offensively, the Larks have pounded out 49 home runs, more than double KCKCC’s 22 round trippers. Amy Bretado leads with 19 while Paige Bittle has 10, the same as KCKCC leader Kaylee Arnzen. As a team, Hesston is hitting .339 led by Jessie Miranda’s 439 average.

KCKCC will take a team batting average of .318 into the game with seven Blue Devils hitting .300 or better. Shortstop Hannah Redick (.392) and first baseman Arnzen (.390) are the leaders followed by outfielders Devin Purcell (.361) and Alexis Rymer (.325), Grosstephan (.350), second baseman Britney Smith (.323), catcher Jennica Messer (.300) and third baseman Alaina Howe (.250). Arnzen leads in RBI with 48 followed by Rymer (39), Redick (37), Smith (33) and Grosstephan (30).

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