Free State softball outlasts Ottawa, 8-7

photo by: Chris Duderstadt

Free State's softball team celebrates as Taylor Burks heads home to score the winning run in the Firebirds' 8-7 victory over Ottawa on Friday, April 27, 2018 at FSHS.

Even after Free State freshman Georgia Rea legged out a game-winning infield single to bring home Taylor Burks in an 8-7 win over Ottawa on Friday at FSHS, the feet of the Firebirds first baseman couldn’t stop moving.

Rea’s softball cleats doubled as dancing shoes as she danced with her teammates to Rednex’s Cotton Eye Joe after the game. After dropping back-to-back games, Rea realized that it was important to get back in the win column with two more games on tap for today against St. Thomas Aquinas and Lansing.

“This was honestly huge,” Rea said. “Coming back from a few losses, this is big for us with getting our momentum and confidence back. This was a big game for us.”

The game-winning single was one of many clutch plays made by Rea — who went 2-for-2 with two RBIs, three walks and two runs scored. The freshman first baseman also got it down on the defensive end by starting a 3-6-4 double play to end the Cyclones’ top of the fourth.

“I had my momentum going right, so I was just going to take that ball and lead it to second base,” Rea said. “Hopefully Sara (Roszak) was going to be there, which she was. She had my back on that and Grace (Patchen) was right behind her, so we got that double play.”

The Firebirds also escaped a potential big inning from the Cyclones in the first after Kamryn Shaffer put Ottawa on the board with a one-out RBI triple. The one run was all that the Cyclones would get, though, as Jocelyn Woods lined out to third. Free State third baseman Lauryn Jones made a diving grab before beating Shaffer to the base for a double play.

“She’s really athletic,” said FSHS coach Lee Ice of Jones. “She’s made two or three diving plays like that and she’s got quick reflexes.”

The dazzling defense and clutch two-out hits from Emma Stanwix helped the Firebirds build a 5-2 lead. Stanwix went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs — all of which came with two outs.

“With less than two strikes, I was really looking for my pitch — something I could drive,” Stanwix said.

The Firebirds’ three-run lead vanished in a flash, though. After the Cyclones got one run back in the fifth, Shaffer sparked the Cyclones’ four-run sixth with a leadoff double. Morgan Paddock tied it up with a two-run double before the Cyclones scored two more on an error to go up 7-5.

“We have one bad inning it seems that leads to three or four runs and we just haven’t been able to catch up,” Ice said. “Fortunately in this case, we were ahead.”

Free State cut the deficit in half by scoring a run on an error in the sixth, but still needed one more in the seventh to avoid a third straight loss. After leading off the home half of the seventh with a single, Jones showcased her athleticism again by dashing home on a fielder’s choice to tie it.

Some controversy then followed with Emma Pravecek coming up to the plate with two on and one out. There was some confusion between Ice, Ottawa coach Amber Harris and the home plate umpiring about Pravecek re-entering, but she still remained in the game.

“In between innings, I said re-enter 12. He (the home plate umpire) didn’t hear that, but on his sheet he had 15 coming out, which was (Karsen) Jacobson,” Ice said. “If that was the case, she would’ve been out and we wouldn’t have been tied. That’s why we called the scorer down because the substitution for Pravecek. Pravecek had not had a result yet, so we were still able to re-enter her legally.”

Pravecek went on to strike out, but Rea followed with her walk-off single.

“That normally doesn’t happen from a first baseman,” Ice said. “She’s one of the best runners, if not the fastest runner, on the team playing first base. That was the key putting pressure on the defense a little bit.”

The Firebirds will try to keep rolling against St. Thomas Aquinas at 10 a.m. and Lansing at 12 p.m. today at the Shawnee Mission Softball Complex.

Ottawa 110 014 0 — 7 7 2

FSHS 102 201 2 — 8 10 2

W — Morgan Leslie. L — Kamryn Shaffer.

2B — Emma Stanwix, Free State; Kamryn Shaffer, Ottawa. 3B — Lauren Curtis, Kamryn Shaffer, Ottawa.

Free State highlights — Georgia Rea 2-for-2, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 runs; Sara Roszak 2-for-4, RBI, run; Emma Stanwix 3-for-4, 3 RBI; Taylor Burks 1-for-3, BB, 2 runs.