Catherine Smith fended off Olathe North's softball lineup as long as she could, hoping her team's offense eventually would scratch some runs together.
Free State High's ace hurler waited for those runs all afternoon and into the evening as the sun set behind her. They never came. Then, the sun set on her team's chances of winning.
Smith received exactly zero runs of support - in 15 innings of a doubleheader - as her Firebirds fell, 2-0 and 4-0, Monday at Free State.
It was the sixth and seventh times the Firebirds had been shut out this season in just 14 games.
"We should be getting better as the season's gone on," Smith said, "and we've just gone downhill, hitting-wise."
The Firebirds (5-9) managed just two hits off Eagles starting pitcher Sarah Espy in Game 1, and their follow-up performance was equally poor.
Espy continued to fluster FSHS by mixing together a screwball and a riseball, as the Firebirds again finished with two hits off her in Game 2, which went eight innings before Olathe North broke through with four runs.
FSHS - which struck out 26 times during the doubleheader - had its best chance to score in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 when it had runners at second and third. But a miscommunication on the basepaths led to a botched suicide squeeze and the third out of the inning resulted at third base.
The offensive ineptitude and missed signals were enough to drive Firebirds coach Pam Pine up a wall.
"I'm about pooped out," she said. "I really don't know what else to do as a coach. I'm here to do what I can, but they're going to have to suck it up and figure out how they want to finish the rest of the season."
Smith did her part, striking out 18 Eagles hitters in 15 innings of work. She worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the sixth inning of Game 2 and finally ran out of steam when she was called upon to duplicate the feat in the eighth inning. Smith even broke up Espy's perfect game with a single in the top of the fifth inning of Game 2.
"She had an awesome day," Firebirds shortstop Kayley Lane said of Smith. Lane slapped the only other hit off Espy in Game Two. "We just didn't have the support behind the plate.
"We've all got to come together. I think a lot of it is mental. We need to get some confidence."
Free State's turnaround time will be short. The Firebirds take on Lawrence High in a doubleheader today at Holcom, starting at 5 p.m.