There wasn't anything particularly dazzling about the way Olathe Northwest High junior Brandi Leeker pitched during the Ravens' doubleheader Tuesday at Free State High.
She wasn't particularly fast and put plenty of pitches in the dirt, but her steady combination of fastballs and change-ups fooled the Firebirds most of the afternoon. Leeker allowed six hits in Free State's 5-0 victory in Game One before firing a three-hitter in the Ravens' 6-1 win in Game Two.
"We didn't respond too well to that pitcher," FSHS coach Pam Pine said. "We had trouble hitting her, and some of our hitters couldn't get her timed. When we did hit the ball, we hit it right at 'em. Some of our better hitters struggled, and they're going to have to learn to adjust and put the ball in play."
Leeker and FSHS pitcher Ashley Wagner each showed moments of sheer dominance on the mound during Game One. Wagner simply sustained her control a little bit better. She tossed a four-hit shutout and never allowed more than one hit in an inning.
The Firebirds (6-6 overall, 3-3 Sunflower League) were lucky Wagner was so focused against Northwest (3-11, 0-6), because they needed every ounce she could muster. Wagner not only sizzled on the mound, but her two-run homer in the fourth inning ended Leeker's no-hit bid.
"We were playing pretty even for a couple of innings, and I felt like I needed to step up as a leader and try to do something," Wagner said of her 225-foot blast over the left-field fence. "I got it started, and everybody followed."
Tricia Dunham, Dacia Sprow and Aleese Kopf smacked three straight singles that led to two more runs in the decisive four-run fourth. FSHS capitalized on two Raven errors in the sixth and pushed its lead to 5-0.
Just as Free State seemed poised to claim its school-record-tying seventh victory of the season, it collapsed in Game Two. Pitcher Felicia Freeman was working a one-hit shutout through three innings, but received no offensive support.
Things began slipping away in the fourth inning as the Ravens connected for three hits and took a 1-0 lead. They took advantage of two hits, a hit batter and two FSHS errors to plate two runs in the sixth.
Two more Firebird errors led two three more Northwest runs in the seventh and a 6-0 deficit. Dunham reached base on an error and scored on Emily Leiker's single in the seventh, but the Firebirds never posed a serious threat.
"We just can't seem to put two games together," Wagner said. "We should've won this one easily, but we struggled a little bit and made some errors that we shouldn't have made. We really should've won both of them, but with mental errors that's what we get."
Free State next plays Thursday against Shawnee Mission South at FSHS. The doubleheader will begin at 3:30 p.m.