As nine innings clicked by, an instant classic developed into the greatest scoreless showdown in Hoisington softball history.
Hoisington pitcher Kassidy Nixon delivered 15 strikeouts while Beloit pitcher Chloe Odle struck out 17 batters in Wednesday's 3A softball regional semifinal. It was a virtual certainty that the eventual winner would capture the state tournament berth against Russell/Victoria.
The drama extended to the 10th inning.
Cardinal Gracie Aylward achieved a lifetime goal with the game-winning double to left field that scored Mollie Steiner, who doubled. Aylward was swarmed by happy teammates who knew that destiny was on their side. The Cardinals rolled past Russell/Victoria 5-1 in the championship game.
"That was an awesome moment," Aylward said. "That was everything that I would ever imagine — having a teammate on base and having her score and win the game."
The left-handed Aylward calmed herself and focused on the basics. She was prepared to swing at the first pitch.
"It was my perfect pitch," she said. "Their pitcher focused pitching outside to lefties and that's what I got."
The Cardinals left a runner in scoring position four times before the game-winner. Nixon doubled to lead off the second inning. The Cardinals got away from their game plan by wasting at-bats with outs on bunts for a team that rarely gives up outs. Shaylay Kempke bunted into a fourth-inning double play. Keeley Wolf popped out on another bunt attempt.
Hoisington coach Tim Boxberger had never experienced such a tense game that would be decided on one decisive play.
"It was pitch-for-pitch, something I've never been a part of," Boxberger. "Neither pitcher wanted to give in. We got out of our element bunting with hitters who hadn't bunted all year. Beating Beloit was a big step forward after losing to them two years ago."
Cardinal pitcher Nixon performed like a champion with 28 strikeouts to spark the Cardinals past Beloit 1-0 in 10 innings and 5-1 over Russell/Victoria to capture a 3A state softball berth. Nixon threw one-hitters in both games firing 227 pitches. Nixon painted the inside corner with strikes against Beloit.
"I came out with a good mentality and threw harder than I've thrown before," Nixon said. "I knew I had to do my job and keep the other team down. That's one of the best feelings I've ever had to quality for state in another sport."
CARDINALS 5, RUSSELL/VICTORIA 1 — The Cardinals erased any doubt with single runs in the first two innings. The Cardinals scored three runs in the fourth inning.
Aylward singled and scored a first-inning run on an error. Steiner singled home Kortney Lang after a second-inning single. Ava Henry singled and scored on an error when Steiner's batted ball was thrown away. Steiner stole home on a double steal with Aylward. Aylward scored on Kadence Urban's sacrifice fly for a 5-0 lead.
"Scoring runs in the first two innings really helped us and energized us," Boxberger said. "Going to state is where we wanted to be."
Nixon yielded a fourth-inning single to Kendra Bay. Taylor Powers scored a sixth-inning run on a wild pitch.
"Kassidy is one of the best competitors I've coached," Boxberger said. "Kassidy was awesome today. Kassidy told me 'you're not taking me out.' "
The Cardinals (19-4) qualify for the state tournament May 27-28 at Manhattan.
Beloit 000 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
Hoisington 000 000 000 1 — 1 6 0
Odle and McMillan. Nixon and Urban. W—Nixon, 11-0. L—Odle. 2B—H—Nixon, Kempke, Steiner
Hoisington 110 300 0 — 5 10 1
Russell 000 001 0 — 1 1 3
Bay and Powers. Nixon and Urban. W—Nixon, 12-0. L—Bay.
RUSSELL/VICTORIA 13, ELLSWORTH 0
Russell/Victoria's Brooklyn Nowak delivered a trio of two-run doubles for six RBIs to power the Broncos past Ellsworth 13-0 in Wednesday's 3A Larned softball semifinal. The Broncos (17-5) advance to Wednesday's championship game at Barton Community College. The Broncos rapped out six extra-base hits.
The Broncos scored two unearned runs for a 3-0 first-inning lead. Kendra Bay drilled her seventh homer of the season. Brooklyn Nowak and Valerie Dome hit back-to-back singles. Courtesy runner Marissa Myers and Dome scored on back-to-back two-out errors. The Bearcats got a fortunate break when Belle Walton's groundball hit baserunner Rylee Miller for the third out.
The Broncos scored three second-inning runs. Nowak doubled home Taylor Powers and Bay after a triple and walk. Courtesy runner Myers scored on a wild pitch for a 6-0 lead. Nowak's third-inning double scored Belle Walton and Powers.
Russell/Victoria clinched a run-rule with five fourth-inning runs. Walton's single scored Brooklynn Kuhn. Walton scored on May's single. Nowak's double scored Powers and Bay. Myers scored on a bases-loaded walk for a 13-0 margin.
Bronco right fielder Belle Walton delivered a perfect throw and catcher Taylor Powers tagged Stormy Thompson out for a third-inning double play. Powers also threw out Emma Moore on an attempted steal.
Ellsworth 000 00 — 0 5 2
Russell/Victoria 332 5x — 13 11 0
Moore, Hipp (2), Moore (4) and Haas. Nowak, Bay (5) and Powers. W—Nowak, 5-1. L—Moore. 2B—RV—Nowak 3, Walton. 3B—RV—Powers. HR—RV—Bay (7)
HOISINGTON/CENTRAL PLAINS 15, ROOKS COUNTY 0
LARNED — Hoisington pitcher Kassidy Nixon (10-0) threw a two-hit shutout to spark the Cardinals past Rooks County 15-0 in the 3A Larned softball regional. Hoisington (17-4) will meet Beloit (17-4) in a rematch at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Larned in a rematch of the 2019 regional championship game.
Nixon, Shaylah Kempke, Kadence Urban, Kortney Lang and Mollie Steiner each drove home two runs. Kempke and Nixon each doubled and delivered three hits. Rooks County contributed eight errors.
The Cardinals scored six runs in the second inning and seven runs in the third inning.
Rooks County 000 0 — 0 2 8
Hoisington 260 7 — 15 13 0
Hahn and Ashlynn Stamper. Nixon and Urban. W—Nixon, 10-0. L—. 2B—H—Nixon, Kempke
ELLSWORTH 10, SYLVAN/LUCAS/LINCOLN 1
LARNED — Ellsworth's Greta Klein and Nicole Haase hit RBI doubles to spark a 10-1 victory over Sylvan. Haase and Lizzy Hipp hit RBI singles in the fifth inning. Sylvan contributed six errors.
Ellsworth 002 260 0 — 10 6 0
Sylvan 100 000 0 — 1 4 6
Moore and Haas. Obermueller and O'Bannon. W—Moore. L—Obermueller. 2B—E—Klein, Haas
BELOIT 7, TMP 1
LARNED — Beloit pitcher Kim Nichols shut down Hays-Thomas More Prep in a 7-1 quarterfinal victory. Alexa Ryersee hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Sophia Coulter for the Monarchs' run.
Beloit's Mylie Brown and Haleigh Pearson delivered first-inning RBIs. Chloe Odle scored on a second-inning passed ball. Jenna Loomis and Kim Nichols scored on fourth-inning groundouts. Loomis singled home Haley Channel in the fifth inning. Trinity McMillan singled home Pearson in the sixth inning.
Hays-TMP 000 100 0 — 1 6 2
Beloit 210 211 x — 7 12 1
Augustine and Coulter. Nichols, Odle (4) and Loomis. W—Odle. L—Augustine. 2B—T—Allen, Heiman, Coultier; B—Pearson. 3B—B—Pearson
RUSSELL/VICTORIA 17, LARNED 0
LARNED — Russell/Victoria pitcher Kendra Bay threw a three-inning no-hitter as the Broncos rolled past Larned in the 3A Larned softball regional. Annie Cox walked for the Indians' lone baserunner. Bay led the offense with two doubles and five runs batted in. Larned ended with a 1-16 record.
The Broncos (16-5) scored 11 runs in the first inning and added six second-inning runs. Brooklyn Nowak doubled and tripled and drove home two runs. Valerie Dome drove home two runs. Kayla Noller, Rylee Miller, Kassi Weber and Belle Walton drove home runs.
Larned 000 — 0 1 4
Russell (11)6x — 17 15 0
Whittington and Meyer. Bay and Powers. W—Bay, 7-2. L—Whittington. 2B—R—Bay 2, Nowak. 3B—R—Nowak
3A LARNED—Russell/Victoria 17, Larned 0; Ellsworth 10, cSylvan/Lucas/Lincoln 1; Hoisington/Central Plains 15, Rooks County 0; Beloit 7, Hays-TMP 1; MAY 19—Russell-Victoria 13, Ellsworth 0; Hoisington/Central Plains 17-4 vs. Beloit 17-4; Russell/Victoria (17-5) vs. Hoisington/Central Plains/Beloit winner
2A BROOKVILLE—Ell-Saline 20, Little River 3; Republic County 11, Bennington 8; Ellis 10, Sterling 0; Salina Sacred Heart 10, Ellinwood 0; THURSDAY--Ell-Saline (18-3) vs. Republic County (5-14), 3; Ellis (13-6) vs. Sacred Heart (11-10), 4:30