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Monarch softball loses heartbreaker

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian softball coach Melissa Schoepf is hoping she found the motivation the Monarchs need to win a game or two at regionals next week. Unfortunately, it took a pair of losses on Tuesday -- one rather heartbreaking -- to find the catalyst they need to hopefully push things into another gear.

After being rolled by Hoisington/Claflin 15-0 (four innings) in the first round of the MCAA Tournament at TMP Field, TMP lost an intense 14-13, eight-inning contest to Ellinwood in the third-place game.

"They are down about this. They wanted that. And I told them not to forget that feeling," Schoepf said about their loss against Ellinwood.

"I said, 'After midnight, it's a new day. I don't want you to forget what just happened here and I don't want you to dwell on it. We got to find a way to move forward, we got to find a way to use that as a fuel. That's got to be what motivates us to get through to next week.' "

TMP, the tournament's No. 4 seed, ran into a buzz saw against top seed Hoisington (12-4) in the semifinals. Behind the arm of sophomore pitcher Karisa Schremmer, the Cardinals completely shutdown the Monarchs in the run-rule victory.

Schremmer pitched all four innings and no-hit TMP, which only had 12 batters make an appearance at the plate, half of which ended up striking out. The Cardinals offense was merciless on the other side as well, scoring five runs in the first inning, two in the second, five in the third and three in the fourth.

"Against Hoisington, we knew they were bringing in a good pitcher. We saw her a little bit this summer throwing and knew she could throw some speed," Schoepf said. "We told the girls when we were done, we said, 'That game's over. We put that behind us and now we focus on a different team. Now we are back to Ellinwood.' ... So I was really pleased to see them come out aggressive and ready to play."

TMP lost a pair of games at Ellinwood on April 24, 6-1 and 9-4. Round 3 proved to be a little more dramatic.

After being no-hit against Hoisington, the Monarchs opened the game against Ellinwood with a single from freshman Alison Helget. A batter after Helget was tagged out at home on a fielder's choice, freshman Katelyn Zimmerman's RBI single would give TMP a 1-0 lead after the top half of the inning -- the Monarchs were designated the road team in each contest -- the beginning of a long game for both defenses.

TMP led 6-3 after three innings, but had everything slowly fall apart as the Eagles scored two runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to lead 9-6 entering the seventh.

After three consecutive scoreless innings, TMP erupted in the seventh with seven runs, aided by four walks and one batter being hit by a pitch. By the time the damage was done, TMP had taken a 13-9 lead over Ellinwood entering the bottom half of the seventh.

"We were able to pull it out there in the seventh inning and get up by four runs. Exactly what we wanted to do," Schoepf said. "They went up there, relaxed and built a pretty good lead up there with four. Just couldn't hold on to that."

Ellinwood turned the tables on TMP in the bottom half of the seventh, capitalizing on a handful of Monarch fielding errors to score four runs and send the game into an eighth inning.

TMP would eventually load the bases with two outs in the eighth. A wild pitch from Ellinwood's Allison Panning looked like it would lead to an easy Monarch run, but the catcher found the ball in time to turn a routine score into a disastrous display of base running, with TMP's Laurel Hageman getting trapped between third and home and being tagged out to end the inning.

Ellinwood wasted no time in the bottom of the eighth, a big swing from junior Tawny Arndt to center field scoring senior Kelsea Ward from second base to end the game.

"We got to find a way to put it behind us. When we were out there you could tell they're down," Schoepf said. "They got tense right there in the seventh inning when they went on defense. Made a few errors, a few breakdowns right there to let them back in and bring them back into the game. We got to work on that and we got to find a way to shut people down when we get that lead."

Helget pitched a complete game in each outing for TMP, getting the loss both times.

Second-seeded Larned (12-6), which beat three-seed Ellinwood 10-7 in the semifinals, defeated Hoisington 4-1 in the MCAA championship game.

TMP finished the regular season 7-13 and will next head to Ellsworth on Monday for regional play. The Monarch's opponent was set to be announced this morning.