Eudora girls rolling sevens into post-season play
Seven is apparently the lucky number of the Eudora Cardinals softball team. The Cards simply own the seventh inning.
Eudora had a doubleheader date Thursday in Louisburg. The two clubs found themselves tied at 9-9 entering the seventh inning. In that seventh, Eudora proceeded to explode, causing six runs and putting Louisburg away in a wild back-and-forth affair.
In the nightcap, the Cards used a two-run seventh to bury Louisburg 8-4.
Eudora then returned home for senior night Tuesday with Gardner-Edgerton. The Blazers jumped out to an early 1-0 in the first. They extended that lead to 2-0 by the seventh.
And as if on cue, the Cardinals organized another brilliant rally escaping with an amazing 3-2 victory.
It all began weeks ago in Spring Hill when the Cards erased two- and five-run leads in the seventh innings.
"We rallied again, but how many more times can we do that?" head coach Cara Kimberlin asked.
The Cards finally found the cupboard dry, however, in their 2-1 nightcap defeat.
"Losing hurts more when you're winning," Kimberlin said. "It's been a while since I've felt this way. Hopefully, the kids remember this feeling."
It was an especially painful loss for starting pitcher Kelly Spence who got her first loss of the season -- without allowing a single earned run. She struck out six, walking one.
"We just didn't hit the ball very well, and we made a lot of errors," Kimberlin said. "And I don't think (Gardner) made any.
"The bonehead mistakes are just killing us. It's just lack-of-concentration mistakes."
The loss dropped Eudora's record to 16-2. Both losses were by one run. The team has already clinched the top seed in its regional. And normally a 16-2 record would produce an automatic league title as well, but Paola has actually survived the Frontier league with just one loss.
Appropriately, those two teams meet Wednesday evening to make up a rainout and determine a champion.
The loss to Gardner forces Eudora into a position in which it must sweep the Panthers. The stunning seventh-inning victory kept the Cards hopes afloat.
Sophomore Kelsey Epperson got the inning started with a single to left. Junior Alissa Hamilton followed with a single down the left field line. Spence's popup caught a break from the wind and landed safely in play, loading the bases with nobody out.
Epperson used base running to avoid a potential interference call.
Sophomore Michelle Deluna slapped a grounder to the right side, sacrificing an out for the run.
Freshman Brynn Hamilton was less effective, reaching base on a fielder's choice while big sister Alissa was thrown out at home.
So the stage was set for another freshman, Beth Folks, coming to the plate with runners at second and third with two outs and the game on the line.
The rookie responded by ripping a line drive to left. Freshman Caitlyn Riser -- running for Spence -- and Brynn Hamilton raced around, scoring the tying and winning runs.
"That's a huge clutch hit," Kimberlin said. "But it didn't surprise me. Beth (Folks) gets good cuts at the ball, and she's done it before. She's hitting the ball well."
Spence got the win, allowing one earned run while striking out eight and walking one.
As amazing as the comeback was it may pale in comparison to the Cards' ability to win a contest in which they committed 10 errors. That's what Eudora accomplished Thursday in Louisburg.
The Cards self-destructive behavior found them booting and throwing the ball all over the field. Fortunately for the Cardinal cause, Eudora's bats caught fire, scoring 15 runs on 13 hits.
"Honestly, we probably got lucky," Kimberlin said. "You normally can't give up nine runs and commit 10 errors and win."
A six-run third in the nightcap erased a 3-0 deficit and led to a Cardinal victory.
The Cards play their pair with Paola and then prepare for regionals.
Eudora is venturing into the postseason on uncharted ground. The Cardinals were 8-13 a season ago with a far more experienced team.
"The girls have gone far beyond what my expectations were as far as the win-loss column," Kimberlin said. "But they've raised the bar to that next level, and now I expect it all the time."
It's those new expectations that will test this young club -- the region's best.
"I probably won't sleep tonight," Kimberlin said. "I know that's stupid, because there's nothing I can do at this point. I just don't want us to come up short like we did in girls basketball and volleyball. I'm not really prepared to feel like I did at the end of the basketball season.
"And I don't want to be known as the coach that couldn't win the big one."