Goodland hangs on for wild first state win
By CONOR NICHOLL
PRATT – The Class 4A Division II first-round softball contest between Frontenac and Goodland, played in 90 degree heat, featured an early three-run homer by Cowgirl senior third baseman Gabriella Rangel, a big comeback by Frontenac in the sixth and seventh innings and several mental miscues from Frontenac.
In the bottom of the seventh, Goodland had runners on second and third and no one out, but couldn’t score. After Frontenac couldn’t score in the top of the eighth, Goodland finally won the wild game, 7-6, on a walk-off single by junior Stephani DeLaRosa, the No. 9 hitter.
Goodland, the No. 2 seed, improved to 20-3, tied the school record for victories and won the first state game in school history in its third try.
“It’s amazing,” Rangel said with a big smile. “I think I just want to jump in the pool tonight.”
No. 7 Frontenac, which upset previously undefeated Girard in the regional championship game, finished the year 15-8. Goodland was expected to play No. 3 seed Pratt (20-3) in today’s 11 a.m. semifinals, with the championship game scheduled for 2 p.m.
“I have played with them since I was 10 years old,” DeLeRosa said of her teammates. “It feels great. They are like my family. It’s awesome to make it this far.”
Goodland has eight seniors, many who started on the 2012 team that finished with 20 wins. Frontenac had just three seniors, two who played, and had four freshmen in the starting lineup.
“We have just gotten so comfortable together that we just work really, really well together,” said Rangel, who drove in four runs.
The Cowgirls led 6-1 entering the top of the sixth when Frontenac tallied four runs — and could have had more. After a walk and a popup, freshman Gwen Smalley and junior Maci Broyles singled to loaded the bases.
“It’s kind of the story of our year,” Frontenac coach Cassie Buche said. “We start a lot of young kids. ... We have nothing to lose is the way that we have to play.”
Junior Taylor Smith, the No. 9 hitter, roped a two-run double down the field line. Sophomore Kennedi Fields, also the starting pitcher, followed with a RBI single that closed the deficit to 6-4.
“They were hitting the right spots,” Rangel said. “It was a really good game.”
With Smith on third and Fields on first, sophomore Emily Merando followed with a bunt in front of the plate. Smith scored, and Fields went to second.
Rangel dove for the ball, but clearly missed.
Merando stopped running before she reached first base.
More than 20 minutes after the game, Buche hadn’t talked to Merando, but believed Merando thought the bunt was caught.
Goodland made the out at first, but Merando, out of the baseline, then realized the ball hadn’t been caught — and hustled back to first base. The ball was still live, and, with the commotion at first base, Fields started to run off second base.
Goodland got Fields in a rundown. Fields went back to second base. The umpire first called her safe, but then Fields was off the bag and called out. Merando was then again confirmed out at first for the inning-ending double play.
Even Goodland coach Tess Smith was a little confused. She understood the play at first, but was still confused at the second base call.
“I don’t know what happened,” Smith said.
Smith’s run moved the game to 6-5. Buche argued the play, but the double play call stood.
“We never caught a break,” Buche said. “Even at the call at second, we didn’t catch a break there. Just too many things were against us today, and sometimes that happens.”
In the seventh, Frontenac opened the inning with a rocket up the middle from senior Rachel Amershek. Goodland senior starting pitcher Hope Cochran caught the ball — and had to deeply bend her knees because of the impact. It marked the third hard line drive out for Frontenac in the game.
“She can’t hit it any harder,” Buche said.
After a hard ground ball out to second base, Frontenac, down to its last out, tied the game with three straight singles.
In the bottom of the seventh, Goodland had a great scoring chance, but couldn’t win in the game.
“I was like, ‘OK, maybe we got something,” Rangel said. “I was like, ‘Shucks,’ but we’ve still got another chance, we can still do it.”
In the bottom of the eighth, senior first baseman Megan Siruta lofted a line drive over first base.
Then, freshman left fielder Kelsey White singled to center, but freshman Kayla Meyer — the courtesy runner for Siruta — went to third and was thrown out. DeLaRosa followed with a single to left, the third time she reached base.
“Another leadoff hitter,” Smith said.
The speedy White made some of her teammates nervous when she rounded third.
“We were like, ‘Ooohh ... OK, maybe she can make it, she is pretty fast,” Rangel said.
White kept going and scored, completing the wild game.
“It’s gotten this close before, but we always know how to come back and get it,” DeLaRosa said.