Never-say-die Cards fall short of state
In the top of the seventh, the tying run was there.
Sophomore Beth Folks charged around third base with nothing in her way but a 3-3 tie with Louisburg in the title game of the 4A regional playoffs.
She crossed the plate and the Cardinal dugout went wild.
Moments before, junior Kelsey Epperson had put the ball in play, sending Folks on her mad dash to tie the game. Epperson lifted a low pop-up to the first-base side. The Louisburg pitcher and first baseman converged. The ball hit the ground -- tie game.
Then came the call.
The first-base umpire ruled that the ball was foul, which denied Eudora its chance to recapture the lead.
Amid disbelief by the hometown crowd, Epperson returned to the plate, where she grounded out to end the Eudora Cardinals 2005 season with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.
"There's nothing I could do about it," coach Cara Kimberlin said. "He (the umpire) was right there and made the call."
After rain postponed the game on Wednesday, the Cardinals took the field Thursday in the third inning down 1-0.
Sophomore Brynn Hamilton, who pitched 13 innings in the previous rounds, replaced junior Karen Spence for Thursday's action.
Replacing Spence, who had gone three and a third innings before the postponement, was not a matter of her performance, her coach said.
"We caught a break with the rain and decided to put Brynn back into the game," Kimberlin said. "It wasn't that Karen pitched poorly. Brynn was just pitching lights out in the previous rounds, and we knew she could give us a good chance to win."
Louisburg had grabbed the early lead the previous night in the bottom of the first, before the storms moved in.
When play resumed the two teams traded zeros for an inning and a half before Louisburg lengthened its lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Sophomore Lindsey Tuter reached base on an infield single and was able to advance on a throwing error by Cardinal shortstop Michelle Deluna.
"Michelle was just trying to make a hustle play," Kimberlin said. "She (Dennis) is just so quick that it was just one of those plays."
After sophomore Carly Herl reached on a fielder's choice, junior Kelsey Dennis hit a slow roller to short.
Deluna chose to throw to first and the ball went wild, scoring both runs. It was the second error of the inning.
Down 3-0 the Cardinals came back in the top of the sixth.
Epperson led off the inning with a single, and senior Alissa Hamilton was hit by a pitch.
Second baseman Caitlyn Riser then launched a single into right field that cleared the bases, bringing the Cardinals to within a run.
However, with Riser on second, the Cardinals failed to put across the tying run in the sixth inning.
Louisburg went scoreless in the bottom of the inning and managed to hold on for the berth in the 4A-state softball tournament.
As the Wildcats celebrated, the Cardinals accepted their runner-up plaque with a sense of disappointment.
"They were a confident bunch that day in school," Kimberlin said. "They knew they were going on that day."
The coach was proud of her team despite the disappointment.
"They had nothing to hang their heads about," she said. "They were playing at the end of the season like they were expected to and unfortunately they came out on the wrong end."
Wednesday saw the Cardinals take advantage of an unearned run to advance to the championship game against Louisburg with a thrilling eight-inning victory over No. 1 seed Santa Fe Trail.
The two teams traded scoreless innings until the top of the fifth when Eudora threw two runs on the board.
Deluna led off the inning with a double and later scored when senior Jamie Bowser reached on an error.
Folks then tripled, driving in the second of the Cardinal runs.
The Chargers answered in the sixth with a pair of runs on a walk and three singles, tying the game 2-2 and setting up the late- inning drama.
Eudora pitcher Hamilton put away the Chargers in order in the seventh to preserve the tie and move on to the eighth.
In the top of the extra inning, Eudora's Kayla Moyer led off with an infield single and promptly stole second.
After senior catcher Hamilton singled, junior first baseman Spence was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.
In a tournament of breaks, Kimberlin thought one went with the Cards.
"I think he thought it hit her hands," she said. "It hit her bat, but that's just one of those breaks that you just take."
Deluna, who had ignited the Cardinal fifth, delivered again by coaxing a walk out of Santa Fe pitcher Krystal Wiscombe.
Moyer came down the line with the winning run.
Despite the eventual defeat at the hands of Louisburg, coach Kimberlin expressed her satisfaction with both games.
"Those were two of the most intense games I have ever coached," she said.