Mulvane Megan Ramsey can't run for mayor of Ottawa. She's too young. But Ramsey might generate a bunch of write-in votes, anyway.
Ramsey, only a freshman, pitched Ottawa High -- until this year a school without a winning season in softball -- to the Class 4A state championship Saturday afternoon at Mulvane Sports Complex.
Ramsey mowed down Chapman, 4-0, in the morning semifinal, then dazzled state juggernaut Kansas City Piper for six innings before the Cyclones hung on for a 4-3 victory in the afternoon title game.
"She was on fire," Ottawa catcher Jennifer Warren said of the precocious right-hander. "She wanted it, and we did, too."
Nobody wanted it more than Warren, who had played on three consecutive losing teams until Ramsey became eligible for varsity competition this year.
"This was huge," Warren said.
Few expected Ottawa, even though the Cyclones were the No. 2 seed, to have a chance against the powerhouse Pirates. Piper came to the state meet with only one defeat -- to Mill Valley -- and routed Goodland, 12-2, Friday, then gored Girard, 11-7, to reach the title game.
Moreover, K.C. Piper had throttled the Cyclones, 11-0, in the finals of the Overland Park Aquinas Invitational during the first week of the season.
"They thought they had this game in a bag," Warren said, "and they didn't. We're a different team now."
It's true coach Renee Malburg made a couple of position changes since that early loss to Piper, but the big difference was that Ramsey didn't pitch in that game.
"Megan had thrown 135 pitches against Aquinas in the semifinal," Malburg said, "and we thought the only time we would see Piper again was in the state tournament, so we didn't want them to see her and they didn't."
Piper's hitters had early difficulty adjusting to Ramsey's rise ball. The Ottawa freshman fanned seven Pirates in the first three innings and didn't allow a hit until leadoff hitter Amanda Woolley stroked a hard single up the middle with two out in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Ottawa had grabbed a 4-0 lead. Amanda Guenther doubled in Liz Burks in the third, then Burks doubled home Jill Spratt in the fifth. Two walks, a single, an error, a passed ball and a fielder's choice accounted for two more Ottawa runs in the sixth, and the way Ramsey was pitching those two runs seemed superfluous.
They weren't. They were decisive, because in the seventh, Ramsey suddenly became hittable.
"She may have been a little tired," Warren said, "but she still had movement and speed."
Malburg thought the Pirates "finally started timing her pitches."
Whatever it was, Piper catcher Cortney Channell crushed a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence to start the seventh. Ramsey retired the next hitter, but then surrendered four consecutive singles.
Suddenly, the Cyclones were clinging to a 4-3 lead and Piper had the tying run on second and the winning run on first. At that stage, Malburg wasn't about to make a call to the bullpen for Burks, her other pitcher.
"No, Megan brought us here," Malburg said. "Liz has done a great job, but it's Megan's game."
Ramsey went back to work.
"I think they were getting used to my pitches," she said, "so I tried to mix them up a little more."
Minutes later, Ramsey fanned Courtney Rusza for the second out -- her 10th strikeout -- and then Woolley lined to Spratt at second base and the Cyclones went into orbit, running all over the field and hugging each other.
"Ohmigosh, my heart was in my throat," senior first baseman Jenny Heck said of the scary seventh. "We knew Piper was a comeback team. They've done it before. We knew Megan would pull it out, though."
For her part, Ramsey looked back to that championship game against Piper in the Aquinas tournament -- the one she didn't pitch -- and said: "I'd much rather win the state tournament than that tournament. Now I'm hoping to win three more."
Ramsey pitched all 21 innings in the tournament. She stopped Rose Hill, 2-1, in Friday's first round, tossing a five-hitter. She gave only three hits to Chapman and six to KC Piper.