2020-2021 KSHSAA Class 4A State Softball
The Holton LadyCat (23-2) softball team took third place at the Class 4A state tournament at the Bill Burke Complex in Salina on Saturday shattering school records along the way.
“This group has always stirred it up and made history,” said HHS head coach John Deitrich. “This is the first time Holton has won two games in the state tournament. It’s the first time a Holton team has won 23 games. We also had two pitchers both strike out more than 100 kids.”
Wamego won the Class 4A title after defeating Andale/Garden Plain 6-2.
This is the third straight season the LadyCats have qualified for the state tournament. Last year’s season was canceled for all teams due to COVID-19.
Holton tied for third place during the Class 3A state tournament in 2019 (the third-place game wasn’t held due to weather) and took fourth at the Class 4A-DII tourney in 2018.
Holton won the Big Seven League title this season with a 13-1 record.
“We only had three players on this team that had any postseason experience,” Coach Deitrich said. “We started the season with six new starters, and we had to figure each other out.”
Due to wet field conditions, the Class 4A state softball tournament was pushed back one day, with games rescheduled for Friday and Saturday.
After a slow start, the LadyCats cruised passed the Clay Center Tigers 8-1 in the third-place game of the state tournament Saturday afternoon after their loss against Andale/Garden Plain.
“I thought we maintained our poise well against a really good Clay Center team,” Deitrich said. “It took us a while to get started after the loss, but the bats woke up again. It was a good end.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead at the top of the third inning on a solo home run. Holton drove in two runs in the bottom of the inning though on singles by junior pitcher Gracie Gallagher and junior first baseman Olivia Summers. Gallagher then scored on a wild pitch to bring the score to 3-1 at the end of the inning.
The LadyCats kept the Tigers from scoring the rest of the game while they managed another run in the fourth on a double by junior pitcher Sadie Walker.
Holton finished the game with four runs in the sixth inning on a single by Walker that scored two, a double by Gallagher and a single by sophomore shortstop Brooke Flewelling.
Holton had 10 hits in 28 at bats and seven RBI. Both Walker and Gallagher had two hits, including a double each. Senior Gracie Utz also had a double in the game. Other LadyCats with hits included Flewelling, Summers, sophomore Justine Raye, sophomore Timber Wilson and freshman Emma Summers.
Clay Center had three hits in 24 at bats and one RBI. Gallagher pitched four innings, allowing one run on three hits, striking out six and walking one. Walker finished the game with six strikeouts.
Clara Edwards, who will play for The University of South Dakota next year, pitched for Clay Center and allowed eight runs on 10 hits, striking out six and walking two.
Andale/Garden Plain had a late rally in the seventh inning and forced an extra inning during the semi-final game Saturday morning to secure the win over Holton 3-2.
“If you look at their history, they’ve been to the state tournament probably five of the last eight or nine years,” Deitrich said of Andale/Garden Plain. “We can control what we control, and I thought we maintained our poise and got up a couple.”
Holton opened up scoring in the bottom of the first inning after Walker scored on a ground ball by O. Summers.
The LadyCats expanded their lead to 2-0 after Bond hit a solo home run to centerfield in the bottom of the third inning.
Walker pitched the first five innings and had 10 strikeouts and one walk, and Gallagher pitched the final three innings.
“We changed pitchers, and we just didn’t defend behind her like we should,” the coach said. “We didn’t defend like we’ve normally done in the past.”
Neither team scored in the sixth inning, and Holton needed just three outs to win the game in the top of the seventh, but a solo home run put Andale/Garden Plain on the board 2-1 in the top of the seventh. A fielding error and two singles then tied the game 2-2.
Holton struggled to score in the bottom of the inning, sending the game to extra innings, and in the eighth inning, Andale/Garden Plain took a 3-2 took lead on a triple and a ground out. Three quick outs in the bottom of the eighth gave Andale/Garden Plain the win.
“We had bases loaded during the game at one point, and we couldn’t push a run across,” Deitrich said. “Later, we had two runs on and couldn’t push a run across. Our bats kind of went away in the middle and our defense went away late.”
Holton had seven hits in 28 at bats and one RBI. Gallagher had two hits followed by one each from Walker, Summers, Raye, Wilson and Bond. Andale/Garden Plain had four hits in 29 at bats and three RBI.
Gallagher allowed three runs on four hits, walking one. Alyssa Mude struck out 10 LadyCats during the game and walked three.
During the opening round of the tournament last Friday, Holton defeated Winfield 5-2.
Both teams were scoreless as the game entered the bottom of the third inning. Bond started the inning with a double, however, and then scored on a single by Walker to centerfield.
Holton kept the bats hot and a double by Flewelling drove Walker home and then Flewelling scored on an error by the Vikings and a pop fly by O. Summers to make the score 3-0.
Winfield answered by scoring two runs in the next inning on a fly out and an error by the LadyCats to close the gap to 3-2.
Holton managed two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Both Bond and Walker singled on ground balls, and a single by Gallagher drove in Bond. Then Gallagher scored on single by O. Summers.
Holton kept the Vikings scoreless during the sixth and seventh innings to win the game.
“I thought we had some timely hits. We were a little tight but that’s first game nerves in the state tournament and playing some place we’ve never been,” Deitrich said. “Everybody was playing with some nerves and tension. The first game has more pressure to it because if you lose, you go home.”
Holton had seven hits in 25 at bats and four RBI. Both Bond and Flewelling had doubles. Walker had three hits and Gallagher and Summers each had one hit.
Winfield had four hits in 26 at bats and two RBI. Tessa Irwin had a double for Winfield in the fourth.
Gallagher pitched five innings, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out eight. Walker threw two innings, allowing just one hit and no runs, striking out four.
Winfield’s Shayanna Fromm pitched three innings, allowing three runs in four hits, striking out one. Lauren Howerton also pitched three innings, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out one.
Other tournament scores:
* Andale/Garden Plain defeated Eudora 7-2.
* Clay Center defeated Pratt 5-1.
* Wamego defeated Shawnee Mission-Bishop Miege 4-0.
* Wamego defeated Clay Center 2-1.
* Wamego defeated Andale/Garden Plain 6-2 to win the state tournament.
Holton had two seniors on the team this year, Grace Utz and Ally Beard, who will both play softball in college.
“We’re bringing most of the group back next year,” Deitrich said. “What’s there to frown about?”
Deitrich said Holton was the third smallest team in Class 4A this year.
“I thought we showed well, and our kids responded well when they were challenged. I thought they handled the adversity and disappointment well,” he said. “The parents have been crazy awesome in all that they’ve done to support this group. I think there’s better times ahead still.”