PITTSBURG — Down two runs with two outs remaining, the St. Mary’s Colgan softball team rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat Oswego 8-5 Friday in the Kansas Class 2-1A Regional Championship to punch its ticket to the state tournament.
After leading the game 1-0 and 2-1, the sixth-seeded Panthers fell behind in the third inning when the top-seeded Indians in the bottom of the third when Oswego plated three unearned runs to take a 4-2 advantage. After each team scored in the fifth to keep the difference at two, Colgan strung together five hits and took advantage of an OHS error with one out to score five times and steal the momentum on the way to the win.
“It was a great job by the girls. They battled all game and I told them we had to keep in it, the hits were going to come,” Colgan head coach Kelsey Overacker said. “I told them they couldn’t give up and they had to want it more than the other team — they had to prove that and that’s exactly what they did.”
Trailing 5-3 with one out in the top of the seventh, SMC’s Sydney Russell and Madison Marietta started the comeback bid with a pair of hits to put runners on second and first.
Overacker called for a freshman Kate Radell to pinch hit, and she promptly lined a ball to center field for a single to score Russell from second to cut the lead down to 5-4.
“We have 15 girls that I could probably put in any situation and have tons of confidence in them,” Overacker said. “I told Kate to get ready and had her swinging the bat for two or three innings, and that was the reason why right there.”
Faith VanBecelaere followed with a ball put in play to the hole between shortstop and third, which was double clutched by the Oswego fielder. The hurried throw across the diamond got away from the OHS first baseman and allowed Marietta to cross the plate to tie the game up at 5-all.
With the runners moving up to second and third on the error, the Panthers were in need of a big hit to take the lead.
Colgan’s Sophia Piccini came through in the clutch for her team, driving in a pair of go-ahead runs on a double to left-center field to give SMC a 7-5 advantage — the team’s first lead since the top of the third inning.
“That hit was huge,” Overacker said. “Once you get one, any team you’re playing is going to get down and we just had to take advantage and keep it going.”
Not done yet, Allie Evans followed with a run-scoring single to left field to give the Panthers an insurance run and a lead of 8-5.
Olivia Brynds finished off the Indians with a one-two-three bottom of the seventh in the circle to send her team to the state tournament.
Brynds got the start for the Panthers. She pitched the first two-plus innings before VanBecelaere relieved her in the third inning. Brynds returned to the circle with two outs in the bottom of the sixth and recorded the last four outs of the game. She combined to pitch 3.1 innings of work and allowed three runs, one earned, on two hits and one strikeout.
VanBecelaere pitched 3.2 in relief and allowed two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out two.
“Olivia had a great regional tournament. She came out and did her job in all three games,” Overacker said. “As a freshman, she stepped up huge for us and got us through some tough innings.
“Faith did a good job of being able to settle down in the big innings when Oswego was kind of rallying. She did a good job off the bench and got us through some tough hitters when they were riding on some momentum. Our pitching was very good this tournament, picked up our defense and kept us in games when we weren’t hitting the best.”
It looked as if Oswego had the big momentum swing in the third inning after scoring three unearned runs on four Colgan errors to give the Indians the first-two run lead of the game. Overacker calmed her team down in the dugout after the inning with her team trailing 4-2 and told them there was still plenty of game to be played.
“We had that kind of trouble all year,” Overacker said. “They didn’t really bounce back from that during the year as well, but today I told them this is it, they have to do it. They rebounded and came through when they needed to.”
Russell and Marietta each had two hits and scored twice in the SMC win, while Evans went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Sophia Piccini had a double, scored a run and had a team-high two RBIs at the plate.
Radell and VanBecelaere each had a hit and an RBI, with VanBecelaere scoring once.
Brynds and Aubri Piccini each had hits in the Colgan win.
Aimee Wimp started in the circle for Oswego, pitching a complete game. She gave up eight runs, six earned, on 11 hits, one walk and struck out seven.
At the plate, Karley Brake and Madison Sheddrick each had a hit and an RBI in the loss for the Indians.
Aimee Wimp, Tiffany Wimp and Breanna Vall all went 1 for 3 and scored a run.
This was the second consecutive year the Panther softball team came into the regional tournament as a lower seed and ended up winning it all to advance to the state tournament. While that success a year ago was good for experience and confidence, Coach Overacker told her team before the start of regionals not take any of the games lightly.
“I told the girls it was a great thing last year what we did, but we couldn’t come in thinking we were just going to come in here and take it,” she said. “I told them we have to just take it one game at a time.
“It’s huge that we play all year in the CNC League all year because it definitely does help. We play good teams all year who are tough to beat. We hung around with them at the end of the year, and we might not have pulled through [in some of those games], but I knew it was going to prepare us for this.”
The Panthers head to the Kansas Class 2-1A State Tournament as the eight seed and will face top-seeded Sedan at 5 p.m. on May 26. in Pratt.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.