Back-to-back shutouts earn KCKCC trip to softball national

Basler hurls 18 straight scoreless innings in wins over Highland, Hesston

Ranked No. 16 nationally, KCKCC will be making its third trip to the national softball tournament. Team members are, front row, from left, Lauren Salpas, Ruby Nola, McKenzie Ogden, Madison Pope, Lindsey Gettle, Kaitlyn Bradbury, Trinity Tauer, Emily Ashford and BreAnna Droge; second row, head coach Lana Ross, Raine Hester, Maya Sheldon, Stella Harber, Reagan Marsh, Savannah Maynard, Bradi Basler, McKenna Lester, Emma DeBrouwer, Sam Reynolds and assistant coach Jenn Strohman. (KCKCC photo)

by Alan Hoskins

Riding the right arm of sophomore Bradi Basler, Kansas City Kansas Community College is headed for the NJCAA Division II national softball tournament.

The third national appearance for the Blue Devils, the tournament will be played in Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama, May 24-28. Ranked No. 16 nationally, KCKCC will take a 43-14 record into the national.

A first team All-American last season, Basler pitched the Blue Devils to three straight wins in the Great Plains District Tournament in Topeka. The last two wins were shutouts, 1-0 in eight innings over Jayhawk Conference champion Highland Saturday and 7-0 over Hesston in the championship game Monday. Basler finished the tourney with 18 scoreless innings.

The drive to the national was made especially memorable as Lana Ross got her 700th coaching win in an 11-5 win over Johnson County in the tourney opener; Basler got two pitching wins on her 21st birthday on Saturday, and the game’s biggest play in the 1-0 win over Highland was turned in by leftfielder McKenna Ogden, who transferred from Highland to KCKCC this season.

In the top of the sixth in the 0-0 clash, Ogden threw out what would have been the winning run at the plate. It was the only real scoring threat the Scotties mounted against Basler, who struck out seven and walked three.

Limited to just two hits – both by freshman McKenna Lester – the bottom of the Blue Devils lineup abruptly exploded in the bottom of the eighth.

Sophomore Madison Pope, the No. 8 hitter, rifled a double to left to start the inning, took third on Kaitlyn Bradbury’s bunt single and scored on Savannah Maynard’s fly ball, just beating the throw home in what would have been a bang-bang play had Highland catcher Ellie Kliethermes been able to handle the throw.

“I told Pope to open her hips and her double was just what we needed,” Ross said.

The run set off a wild celebratory melee at the plate as the Blue Devils avenged 4-3 and 5-0 losses to the Scotties (40-9), who came into the tournament ranked No. 12 nationally and winner of 15 of their last 16 games.

“It’s the first time since 2004 that we’ve been to the nationals so I couldn’t be prouder,” Ross said. “These young ladies worked so hard and played their hearts out. And what can you say about Bradi? Eighteen scoreless innings, which is fantastic.”

Basler provided the only run she needed in the championship game against Hesston, belting her 17th home run in the top of the first.

The Blue Devils then put the game out of reach with four runs in the fourth, the big blow a 2-run triple by Ogden with two outs. Lindsey Gettle’s single ignited the rally and after a walk to Pope, Maynard’s sacrifice fly scored the first run and an error scored the fourth.

Hesston had seven hits off Basler (26-7) but only two runners got beyond second base. The first was cut down at the plate, again on a throw by Ogden to Gettle.

The Blue Devils cruised to the 11-5 win over Johnson County in the opener, pounding out 14 hits as they built a 9-1 lead through four innings. Maynard and Lester had three hits each while Trinity Tauer and Ogden had a pair of singles. The team’s RBI leader, Lester drove in three runs and Maya Sheldon, Tauer and Gettle two each.