5/30/2013 3:00:00 PM Lady Pacers earn third title in four years
The back wall of the Milan Lady Indian dugout prior to the start of Wednesday night's Sectional championship softball game was lined with copies of last year's Madison Courier sports page that told of Switzerland County's win over Milan in the softball sectional.
The pages were put there as motivation; but by the end of the title tilt on Wednesday, all of the pages were taken down and Switzerland County had won its third Sectional championship in the past four years with a 5-3 victory.
The championship earned Switzerland County the right to participate in the Class 2A Regional game, which was held this past Tuesday at Providence High School against Providence.
Switzerland County rode the arm and the bat of freshman Kelsi Konkle to the title, as she pitched in all three games over the tournament's three days; and also hit two home runs versus Southwestern. For her efforts, she was honored as the Sectional's Most Valuable Player.
In the championship game, Milan got off to a quick start in the top of the first inning, as leadoff hitter Ashley Ahaus drilled a single off of Kelsi Konkle's glove. Kelli Smith walked to put two runners on, and Hannah Lohrum's grounder to third resulted in a throwing error, allowing Ashley Ahaus to score.
Teresa Jenkins' pop up to short left was just over Lady Pacer shortstop Mikayla Turner's head, and Kelli Smith scored.
Switzerland County settled down, as Kelsi Konkle then struck out two straight hitters to end the threat.
The Lady Pacers wasted no time in getting those runs back, as Kelsi Konkle opened the bottom of the first with a double to rightcenter field. Ashley Watson then walked, but was erased when she was caught stealing, but Kelsi Konkle advanced to third and scored on Lauren Edwards' groundout to second.
With two outs, Courtney Carfield drilled a double to keep leftcenter field; and she then scored the tying run moments later when Shelby O'Neal doubled to deep left.
After Milan went quietly in the top of the second, Brooke Todd opened the bottom of the second for Switzerland County with an infield single.
Vicky Abbott then grounded out to the pitcher, advancing Brooke Todd; and Mikayla Turner followed that with a single up the middle. With two runners on, Kelsi Konkle then grounded out to the shortstop, allowing Brooke Todd to score the go-ahead run.
The offense then settled down a bit, as both teams were retired in order in the third inning; and in the top of the fourth Milan had a threat when Leeanna White's popup was just over the reach of second baseman Ashley Watson. She advanced to third, but was stranded there as Switzerland County held the lead.
Switzerland County then got more firepower in the bottom of the fourth.
After Susie Reyes struckout to open the inning, freshman catcher Brooke Todd stepped to the plate, and after looking at a couple of offerings, found one she liked and smashed a homerun over the leftfield fence that pushed the Lady Pacer lead up to 4-2.
Milan again went quietly in the top of the fifth, but there was a defensive highlight, as Lady Pacer centerfielder Courtney Carfield made an outstanding catch on the run into rightcenter field. It was the second outstanding defensive effort of the night, as she also robbed a Milan hitter of extra bases with a great catch towards leftfield in the third inning.
Switzerland County went out 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth; and everyone came to the edges of their seats for the final two innings.
Milan threatened in the top of the sixth, as Hannah Lohrum kicked things off with a single to center. After Teresa Jenkins flew out to centerfield for the first out, Leeanna White's squibber down the first base line stayed fair to put two runners on.
That brought Sydney Ross to the plate with the tying runs on, but Kelsi Konkle blew pitches by her for a huge strikeout for the second out. Paige Lacey then walked to load the bases, but again Milan couldn't push a run across, as Kelsi Konkle struck out Kiera Hall to end the threat.
The Lady Pacers got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, with Brooke Todd singling to center. Vicky Abbott then laid down a perfect sacrifice to move Brooke Todd up, and when the throw went to first, Brooke Todd kept on running, advancing all the way to third.
When the throw to third was wild, Brooke Todd raced home with another run; and Switzerland County held a 5-2 advantage with Milan having just one more at bat.
Ashley Ahaus led off the top of the seventh with a walk, and Kelli Smith followed that with a pop up to Switzerland County second baseman Ashley Watson for the first out.
Morgan Widener then singled to left, scoring Ashley Ahaus, and advanced to second on an error.
It was then time for another outstanding defensive play.
With Morgan Widener on second, Milan's Hannah Lohrum hit a hot grounder to shortstop Mikayla Turner. Instead of throwing on to first, she wheeled and fired a shot to second baseman Ashley Watson, who applied the tag to a napping Morgan Widener, and the second out was recorded and the lead runner was erased.
And the newspaper copies started coming down.
Teresa Jenkins then hit a grounder to Mikayla Turner, and the force out at second sealed the win and the Sectional championship for Switzerland County.
Final score: 5-3.
"I couldn't be more proud of the six seniors, and my manager's a senior," head coach Steven Konkle said following the game. "I couldn't be more proud of my freshmen. I couldn't be more proud of my whole dugout. Just a great group of kids. They seem to know how to win."
Having to win three games in three days to earn the championship, Coach Konkle said that he was very proud of how his squad fought through adversity in every game.
"We played good in the first game, we had a great start in the game; not such a good start in the final two games," the coach said. "We tied this one up early, which was huge against Milan. You let them go up two runs and then let a couple of innings go by, and they just build momentum. It was important to come right back and tie the game in our half of the first."
He also praised his defense, which twice withstood bases loaded situations.
"We had a freshman pitcher on the mound, but we had four seniors behind her in the infield and another playing great in centerfield." Coach Konkle said. "We made plays when we had to. Kelsi made pitches when she needed to. Things just seemed to fall in place. Courtney Carfield made two excellent plays tonight in center. We moved her back from shortstop because we needed her defense. She was outstanding tonight, as was everyone else."
And what did her tell them heading into the final inning?
"Just go play and have fun," he said. "I try and not coach in the last inning. It's just, 'go get them'."
Offensively, Steven Konkle spotlighted freshman Brooke Todd, who hit a home run in the game and accounted for three of the five runs scored.
"The home run took the momentum away from them, and she's the same player who scored the fifth run that was huge. Milan was hoping to go into that last inning just down two, so the fifth run was big. Brooke knows to look at third and she didn't see a fielder there, and even though they got somebody there, it took a perfect throw to get her, and it ended up scooting by and she was quick enough to get up and score."
And the regional?
"Well, Providence had a chip on their shoulder after we beat them last year in the regional, and they showed that when they came here this year and beat us in five innings, so now we have that chip," Coach Konkle said. "We have some things they haven't seen, and I think we're better defensively. From here, it's all cake."