SALINA — McPherson High’s softball hitters have lamented all season about the number of homers they’ve lost by playing half of their games at cavernous Grant Complex.
Blasts that would easily have been homers at other parks were just routine outs at Grant. The Bullpups probably lost at least 20 bombs this season, which could be a modest estimate.
But in Thursday’s Class 4A Division I State Tournament opener at Bill Burke Complex, the Bullpups must have felt like they stepped into a bandbox.
Madison Hoffman led off for the Bullpups by parking a ball over the left-field fence. Marissa Axelson was next up and she hit one even further. Finally in the fourth inning, Jasmine Wann muscled a two-run blast out to dead center, which unknowingly at the time turned out to be the game-winner in a nervous 10-8 victory over Wamego.
MHS, 17-6, plays at 11 a.m. Friday in the semifinals against Louisburg, a 5-3 winner over Rose Hill.
The Bullpups had hit only 14 homers on the year, the majority of them inside-the-parkers. But they became homer-happy today and MHS coach Danica Fitzmorris was somewhat worried that a fence-busting mentality took over instead of just hitting the ball hard.
However, all that mattered was the Bullpups, in their first-ever state appearance, qualified for the second day, assuring them of playing two more games, hopefully the last for the championship.
“You can’t start better than that. Holy cow,” Fitzmorris said. “Two, back-to-back home runs over the fence. I think the other girls in the lineup probably wanted some and we swung a little for deep balls, which I’d rather us not do. I’d rather us just swing level and swing for base hits.”
After Wamego nicked Hoffman for a run in the top of the first, the Bullpups roared back with four in the bottom of the inning, then added three more in the second. The Red Raiders pushed across an unearned run in the third, but Wann’s blast pushed it to a seemingly safe 9-2 lead, which held up into the sixth. Hoffman was dealing, masterfully changing speeds to keep the Red Raiders off balance.
The Bullpups, so good defensively for five innings, started to falter. Combining some hits with MHS miscues, the Red Raiders scored three in the sixth and then added three more in the seventh, but the early cushion allowed MHS to survive. Wamego did have the tying run at the plate in the final inning, but the steely Hoffman got the final two outs to run her record to 10-3.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Fitzmorris said. “I want them to fight from inning one to inning seven and that’s we do well.”
Wann was 3 for 3 with four runs scored and four RBIs. Stephanie Farney, from the No. 7 hole, had three key RBIs, while Axelson, Hannah Marshall, Gracy Feil and Brooke Schrag all had two hits.
Hoffman weathered 11 hits, but hit her spots when she needed to.
“She had a lot of whiff swings,” Fitzmorris said. “She’s playing well. Always does. Very stable.”
At-bats, runs, hits, RBIs
MHS (10) — Hoffman 4-1-1-1, Axelson 4-1-2-1, Kerr 4-2-0-0, Wann 3-4-3-4, Marshall 4-1-2-1, Feil 4-0-2-0, Farney 4-0-1-3, Cheek 4-0-1-0, B. Schrag 3-1-2-0, B. Schrag 0-0-0-0.
Augusta 9, DeSoto 1
McPherson 10, Wamego 8
Fort Scott 6, Kansas City Piper 5
Louisburg 5, Rose Hill 3