By JIM MISUNAS
PRATT – The Ellinwood Eagles rode into the Class 2A state softball championship with momentum after a thrilling 11-10 semifinal upset over Udall.
But Valley Falls stopped the Eagles with a quick five-run burst and beat Ellinwood 11-2 for the school’s first state championship Friday.
The Eagles (20-4) achieved school history with a runner-up finish in their first trip to the state tournament. They had a 16-game winning streak snapped by Valley Falls.
Ellinwood coach Jason Duvall said the Eagles were unable to duplicate their intensity after a hard-fought semifinal. The Dragons cruised past Sedan 15-0 in the semifinals. The Eagles qualified for Class 2A state with wins over Sacred Heart and Ell-Saline.
“I’m extremely proud of our softball team. I appreciated they battled to the end. We played a really emotional game in the semifinals and that took a toll,” Duvall said. “We came out of a good regional and probably weren’t expected to be here.”
The Dragons made the Eagles pay for several mistakes with eight unearned runs. Natalie Pickerill started the scoring with a two-run single when the first four batters reached base off losing pitcher Allison Panning.
But the Eagles kept competing and kept trying to make the next play.
“They hit the ball really well. I give a lot of credit to them,” Duvall said. “They are an extremely good softball team. There are so many things we could’ve done better. The team with the most errors will probably lose. We fought to the end.”
Duvall said the Eagles competed hard and played their best softball at the end of the season.
“We played better softball at the end and hit the ball very well,” he said. “We stayed up emotionally and that was quite an improvement when something bad happened.”
Jenna Kramer drilled a two-run fifth-inning single and two runs scored on Taylor Long’s third-inning groundball.
The Eagles were unable to convert the routine defensive plays after an exciting semifinal victory. Back-to-back errors paved the way for a three-run third inning.
Ellinwood’s Katie Shafer drilled a double that scored Panning in the fourth inning to slice the lead to 5-1. Laura Standlee doubled and scored on Jenna Oelke’s single in the fifth for a 5-2 score.
Back-to-back errors started a four-run Valley Falls fifth inning. An infield grounder was misplayed and a Lakiyn Hawk reached base on a misplayed bunt. Mallory Burns delivered a run-scoring single and Reagan Kirkwood hit a sacrifice fly. Jenna Kramer’s single scored two runs for a 9-2 lead.
A final error handed the Dragons two more unearned sixth-inning runs. Paige Wildeman and Hawk scored after a ground ball was missed. Allison Kearney’s RBI single made it 11-2.
• ELLINWOOD 11, UDALL 10 – Brittney Beck drilled a three-run home run and had six RBIs. Beck scored the game-winning seventh-inning run on an error by pitcher Chloe Enderud after her RBI single scored Brynlee Baker for a 10-10 tie. Baker drove in two runs.
Panning preserved the victory by retiring three of four batters, including a game-ending strikeout of Kamren Holmes. She struck out nine batters and overcame eight Eagle errors that led to seven unearned runs.
VALLEY FALLS 11, ELLINWOOD 2
Ellinwood 000 110 0 — 2 8 7
Valley Falls 203 042 x — 11 9 1
Kearney and Kramer. Panning and Katie Shafer. W—Kearney. L—Panning, 19-2. 2B—E, Standlee, K. Shafer; VF, Kramer.
ELLINWOOD 11, UDALL 10
Ellinwood 305 001 2 — 11 16 8
Udall 320 005 0 — 10 8 3
Panning and K. Shafer. Hoffman, Enderud (4) and Jones. W—Panning 19-1. 2B—Beck, K. Shafer, M. Shafer, Petz; S, Loos, Hoffman, Tharp. HR—E, Beck, S, Mann.
ELLINWOOD 3, REPUBLIC COUNTY 0
Rep. County 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Ellinwood 003 000 x — 3 4 1
Hammond, Blazek (6) and Reed. Panning and K. Shafer. W—Panning, 18-1. 2B—E, Mattie Shafer.
Sedan 6, Pittsburg Colgan 3
Valley Falls 2, Northern Heights 1, 8 innings
Udall 4, Medicine Lodge 2
Ellinwood 3, Belleville-Republic County 0
Valley Falls 15, Sedan 0
Ellinwood 11, Udall 10
Valley Falls 11, Ellinwood 2
Udall 13, Sedan 7