Eudora can’t break through finals blues
It's like deja vu all over again.
Those words of New York Yankee great Yogi Berra hit home when the Eudora Cardinals softball team exited the regional playoffs May 19.
It's been more than two months since the Cardinal basketball team suffered one of the most devastating losses in school history. Bishop Ward erased a five-point Eudora lead with less than 30 seconds to play in the sub-state championship game. The key plays in the stunner included a rare turnover from their star player and a Cyclone buzzer-beater from the baseline.
Seventy-five days later the same two schools met in another pivotal postseason match-up.
Inconceivably Ward (13-10) once again devastated Eudora (17-3), this time by virtue of a 3-1 last minute come-from-behind victory.
The Cardinals carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning. Ward led off the inning with a line-out and a pop-out to center -- the two hardest hit balls of the frame. The following Cyclone hitter coaxed a walk out of senior Kelly Spence, the Cardinals' starter. Spence just missed a strikeout on her 2-2 delivery.
With two outs and the runner at first, Ward delivered a line drive single up the middle. A weakly struck grounder then caught the rain soaked infield. The dribbler resulted in an infield single, loading the bases.
Cyclone junior Anna Breitenstein followed with a ground ball to Eudora's third baseman, sophomore Kelsey Epperson. The team's defensive MVP delivered the ball a hair high to Brynn Hamilton. The freshman first baseman left the bag momentarily but appeared to come down in time to record the game's final out, sending the Cards to the regional championship.
But the field umpire ruled that Hamilton did not get her foot down in time. A run scored on the play tying the game -- The bases remained loaded.
The next Ward batter ushered in a routine grounder to sophomore shortstop Michelle Deluna. But Deluna's throw to first was in the dirt, skipping past Hamilton. Two more runs scored, giving the Cyclones a 3-1 lead.
A pop fly to second mercifully ended the inning.
The shell-shocked Cards failed to regroup going 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
"First of all you have got to score more than one run in a regional game to win," head coach Cara Kimberlin said.
The Cyclone's senior starter Katrina Garcia was masterful. She allowed just two hits while striking out 14 Cardinal batters on the day.
Spence was the only Cardinal not to strike out.
Eudora's single tally came in the second inning. Junior catcher Alissa Hamilton led off the inning with a walk. A wild pitch sent Hamilton to second. Spence then delivered a double over the left fielder to the wall. Hamilton scored.
The Cards clung to that lead until the seventh.
"Give credit to Ward; they didn't quit. They could have easily hung their head and quit with two outs in the top of the seventh," Kimberlin said. "You've got to shut the door."
Kimberlin's seen enough of Ward -- she also coached the Cardinal basketball team in their heart-breaking affair.
"When (Spence) walked that girl in the seventh...my stomach just sunk," she said. "I shut my eyes and all I could see was that ball go flying through the air into the basket (in the sub-state basketball game)."
But Kimberlin doesn't for a moment blame Spence for the loss.
"I know Kelly (Spence), and I know she's feeling responsible for it by putting that girl on," she said. "But if Kelly doesn't hit a run in we don't even have a run in that game.
"Without her we're probably not even in this position; not just this year, but for all four years."
It was a disappointing end to a magical season.
"I just told them that this is what stinks about sports," Kimberlin said. "You go 17-3 and you have a season far and above anyone's expectations and it ends like this.
"Unfortunately it ends like this for every team in the state except one. And unfortunately that puts a damper on things when you've had an outstanding season. Because you don't remember the outstanding season. You remember that bad taste in your mouth from that last game."
It's just the latest in a series of near misses for Eudora athletics.
"The confidence will come from the first team that does it," Kimberlin said. "That first team will break a wall down and get us all to relax a little bit.
"These four classes kind of built a foundation for success here for girls sports. Now the next level is closing the door and moving on to the next step."
Ward took that next step defeating De Soto (9-10) 4-0 in the championship game.