Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School softball team earned a trip to the Kansas 6A Softball State Championship Playoffs last Tuesday night by first blanking Shawnee Mission West 10-0 in the semifinals, then claiming the 6A Regional Championship with a 6-2 victory over Olathe East at the Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
After her team claimed the championship, Trailblazer head coach Joanne Calvin spoke about her team’s pair of wins.
“In the first game,” said Calvin after the trophy presentation ceremony, “we started off kind of slow, and it shocked us a little bit, but then we picked it up from there and just ran with it. It’s very emotional, and I know they don’t want to stop. They have a goal in mind and we’re going to keep going.”
The Blazers did indeed start off slow in the evening’s first game, Failing to plate a run in the first two innings but holding West scoreless as well. GEHS was finally able to break open the deadlock in the bottom of the 3rd. Gardner-Edgerton senior right fielder Lily Kepler led off the inning with a sharply-hit single to center field. Senior shortstop Kaylah Newman then followed that with an infield single. During Newman’s hit, the Viking 3rd baseman threw to first base, only to find none of her teammates were covering it, and the ball sailed into the right field foul area. Kepler came around to score on the error and Newman wound up on 3rd base, as the Trailblazers took a 1-0 lead. Blazer senior 3rd baseman Erin Michael then lined a single to left, and GEHS had a 2-0 lead after two innings.
Gardner-Edgerton junior pitcher Ava Blanton then retired the next three Shawnee Mission West batters in the top of the 4th, before the Trailblazers returned to bat in the bottom half of the inning.
Blazer senior left fielder Ellie Garrie led off the home half inning with a lined double into the left field corner. Junior designated player Logan Ringel then followed that with a walk, and GEHS had runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs. Keplet then followed with a single to center that scored Garrie and moved Ringel to third, making the score 3-0. Newman was next up for Gardner-Edgerton, and – on the 2nd pitch of her at-bat, the Viking pitcher threw a wild pitch which brought Ringel home and moved Kepler to 3rd, and the lead was now 4-0, Blazers. Newman then smacked a double down the left field line, scoring Kepler to make it a 5-0 contest. Michael followed and smashed a triple to right center field that plated Newman to make it a 6-0 Blazer advantage. Pruetting then got on board with an infield single that scored Michael and pushed the score to 7-0. Two outs later, Senior center fielder Katie Thompson and Garrie put themselves on with back-to-back infield singles to load the bases. Ringel then delivered the biggest hit of the contest when she pounded a double to left center field that cleared the bases and made it 10-0, Blazers, after four innings.
In the top of the 5th inning, Blanton retired the bottom of the West order 1-2-3, and GEHS claimed the 10-0 victory on KSHSAA run-differential rules, moving into the Championship game against Olathe East, who had defeated Shawnee Mission Northwest, 2-1, in the other semifinal.
Against West, Blanton hurled a complete game, 5-inning shutout – allowing zero runs and just 1 hit, while walking 1 and striking out 1.
Offensively, Ringel paced the Gardner-Edgerton onslaught against the Vikings by going 1-for-2 (2-for-3 in plate appearances) with a double and 3 RBIs, while Kepler was 3-for-3 from the plate with 1 RBI and was 4-for-4 in plate appearances. Michael batted 2-for-2 in the game and 3-for-3 in plate appearance, with a triple and 2 RBIs, Newman was 2-for-4 with a double and 1 RBI, and Garrie went 2-for-3 with a double. Senior catcher Ashley Tribble batted 1-for-2 and was 2-for-3 in plate appearances, senior 1st baseman Harley Pruetting was 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Thompson was 1-for-3 from the batter’s box.
In the evening’s championship game, Pruetting took the circle as the starting pitcher against the Hawks.
The Blazers were the first to get on the board, striking in the bottom of the 2nd inning. On the first pitch of the home half of the inning, Pruetting smashed a pitch deep over the left field fence to spring GEHS to a 1-0 lead after 2 complete.
Gardner-Edgerton struck again two innings later in the bottom of the fourth. Trailblazer senior 2nd baseman Kenna Trout led off the inning by smacking an 0-1 pitch into the left field corner for a double. One out later, Thompson clobbered a 1-1 offering over the left field fence for a 2-run home run and a 3-0 Blazer lead after 4 innings.
Olathe East clawed their way back into the game in the top of the 5th. East 1st baseman Aaliyah Thompson led off the inning with an infield single and was followed by Hawks’ right fielder Cameron Carlisle who stroked a single to left, putting runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Olathe East 2nd baseman Harper Coffman then smacked a single that scored Thompson and Coffman took 2nd on the throw home, making the score 3-1 with East runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs. Pruetting was able to induce a pop out from the next Hawks’ batter, but Olathe East shortstop Isabella Carter got on board with an infield single to load the bases with one out. East center fielder Jayden Chavarria then grounded into a force out but drove home a run to make the score 3-2. Pruetting was then able to get the next Hawks’ hitter on a ground out – with a spectacular throw from Newman at shortstop – to end the danger.
GEHS wasted no time in responding. Newman led off the bottom of the 5th with a single to center field. One out later, Pruetting laced a single to left to give Gardner-Edgerton runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. With two outs, Tribble came to the plate and drove a single to left that scored Newman, making the score 4-2, with Tribble taking 2nd on the throw home. Thompson then came to bat and lined a single to center that scored two more Trailblazer runs, giving the home squad a 6-2 edge at the end of five innings.
Pruetting then retired the final 6 batters she faced, striking out 5 of them and closing out the championship and sending the Blazers to State.
After the game, Thompson – who had 4 RBIs in the contest – spoke about her evening and what her final trip to State means to her.
“What was working for me was waiting for that inside pitch I really like,” Thompson said, “and just every at bat I went up with a plan – ‘I’m just getting a base hit and I’m looking to score for my team and put runs up on the board to get us to State.’ Going to State with these girls is everything, honestly, because a lot of us girls have grown up together and have played together since our very first year of softball ever. So just playing with this team is an absolute magical feeling, and I cannot wait to see where we go at State.”
Pruetting earned the complete 7-inning game victory in the Championship, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 7.
Thompson was the Blazers’ offensive star of the game, going 3-for-3 at the plate with a home run and 4 RBIs, while Pruetting was 2-for-3 in the batter’s box with a home run and 1 RBI. Tribble was 2-for-3 batting with 1 RBI, while Trout and Garrie were each 1-for-3 with a double.
On the day in total, Thompson was 4-for-6 with a homerun and 4 RBIs, Pruetting was 3-for-6 with a homerun and 2 RBIs, Kepler was 3-for-6 with 1 RBI and was 5-for-8 in plate appearances, Michael went 3-for-6 with a triple and 2 RBIs and was 4-for-7 in plate appearances, Tribble was 3-for-5 from the batter’s box and 4-for-6 in plate appearances while also driving home 1 run, Garrie was 3-for-6 with 2 doubles, and Newman was 3-for-8 with 1 double and 1 RBI.
The Trailblazers will begin their quest for a State Championship as the number 4 seed and will take on 5th-seeded Derby High School at 12:15 P.M. at Shawnee Mission District Softball Complex on Thursday.