Not even a mid-game change of venue could change McPherson High’s fortunes in the Class 4A Division I Regional Softball Tournament championship game here Tuesday.
Because the lights on the varsity field at Grant Complex were not working, once darkness set in on the Bullpups’ championship game with Wamego the venue was moved to the JV field.
Down 6-2 at the time, the Bullpups never got anything going in the final three innings on the secondary field as Wamego went on for an 8-2 victory to advance to Salina next week.
All MHS coach Danica Fitzmorris asked of her team was to make it to the finals, where anything could happen. The Bullpups delivered that with a 17-13 first-game victory over Abilene, while the Red Raiders run-ruled Buhler, 16-5.
Wamego came out hungry and was never headed.
“They got ahead by three in the first (inning) and that’s always tough to fight back from that,” said Fitzmorris, whose team finished the year 4-16 while Wamego moves on to Salina with a 13-9 record. “We usually come through a little better than we did tonight. I said we had to have two things. We had to field (the) ball and we had to hit (the) ball. And we didn’t do neither of those very well in the second game.”
Wamego was up 3-0 just four batters into the game, thanks to Amber Hildebrand as she parked a homer that got up into the jet stream that blew out to center field all day. At that point Fitzmorris brought in Elle Schrag to pitch after she had thrown 132 pitchers in a marathon Game 1. She went the rest of the way, finishing with more than 200 pitches.
“She fought hard. She’s a good player that I’m going to miss,” Fitzmorris said.
Morgan Bettencourt added a long ball for the Red Raiders, who were the only team in the field with a winning record.
MHS’ only offense was provided in the fourth inning as walks to Schrag and Gracy Feil turned into runs as Hildebrand threw a wild pitch that allowed the runners to move around the bases.
MHS was held to six hits, two of them by Sheridan Scott.
• McPherson 17, Abilene 13 — Time and again it appeared the Bullpups had this game under control, but the Cowgirls wouldn’t go away.
MHS pounded out to an 11-3 lead after 2 1/2 innings, but Abilene scored four runs after two were out in the third to pull within 11-6. MHS eventually pushed the lead back out to 16-6 and was one out away from ending the game by the run rule, but a wild pitch, followed by a flurry of hits, pulled the Cowgirls within 16-11.
An Elle Schrag homer in the seventh moved the lead to 17-11, but Abilene came back, scoring twice and had the tying run at the plate with two out. But Schrag nailed down the final out to propel MHS into the finals.
Schrag had a pair of homers and five RBIs to lead MHS, while Bailea Crist was 4 for 4 with four runs and four RBIs. Halle Giddings added two hits and Gracie Bruton drove in two runs with a ringing double. Feil added two RBIs.
The Bullpups will graduate seniors Feil, Elle Schrag, Brooke Schrag, Mayci James and Randie Baker off their postseason roster.
“I’m going to miss those five seniors, that’s going to hit next year,” Fitzmorris said.
She’ll rebuild around Crist and catcher Sheridan Scott. Addie Fitzmorris, who started on the mound in the championship game and later had to leave after getting hit in the face by a line drive, is expected to be the top pitcher. Danica Fitzmorris did play a lot of youngsters this season, so there’s some talent for the future.
• Game 1 •
MHS (17) — B. Schrag 3-1-1-1, Crist 4-4-4-4, Scott 4-0-1-0, Giddings 4-1-2-1, E. Schrag 2-2-2-5, Feil 4-1-1-2, Fitzmorris 5-1-1-0, Bruton 5-1-1-2, James 1-2-0-0, Mayfield 0-4-0-0.
• Game 2 •
MHG (2) — B. Schrag 3-0-0-0, Crist 4-1-1-0, Scott 4-0-2-0, Giddings 4-0-1-0, E. Schrag 1-1-1-0, Feil 2-1-0-0, Fitzmorris 1-0-0-0, Guffey 1-0-0-0, Bruce 1-0-0-0, Bruton 3-0-0-0, James 3-0-1-0.