FSHS softball wins regionals, headed to state tournament
Freshman Tatum Clopton had it going in the batter’s box and in the circle to lead the Free State softball team to a Class 6A state tournament berth on Monday at the Two Rivers Youth Complex in Wichita.
Clopton belted a grand slam in the Firebirds’ 17-2 run-rule victory over Wichita South in the semifinals before striking out 16 in the circle in a 4-0 win against Wichita Northwest in the regional final.
The Free State freshman has been a fixture in the heart of the Firebirds’ lineup this season, but she was shut down in the circle for most of the season due to shoulder tightness. After getting five innings under her belt last week, Clopton was ready to go in crunch time in the regional final.
“We knew if we were going to make a run at getting to state, we really needed to get her back. She hadn’t pitched since Game 4 early in the season when we started out 3-1,” Free State softball coach Lee Ice said in a phone interview on Monday night. “With 10 wins from Morgan (Leslie) this year, she got us to where we’re at right now to give us an opportunity to do some damage possibly at state.”
The Firebirds gave Leslie plenty of run support in the regional semifinal, as they scored four in the first, 11 in the second and two in the third to run-rule Wichita South. Sara Roszak and Taylor Burks collected two hits apiece, while Clopton ripped a single, double and grand slam to finish with five RBIs.
In the regional final, Roszak provided most of the offense with a home run and triple to drive in three of the Firebirds’ four runs.
“It was definitely a team effort all the way around. This was a goal they all had back in January, February when we started,” Ice said. “We knew we had some injuries — not just with Tatum, but with a few other people halfway through the season. We just had to get everybody healthy and make a run at the end. That’s kind of what we’re doing right now.”
The Firebirds (15-7) will play in their backyard from here on out with the 6A state tournament being held at KU’s Arrocha Ballpark and Rock Chalk Park. With other regionals still to be played, the Firebirds’ first-round opponent is to be determined.
Ice has liked the chemistry of his team this season with the leadership from his four seniors, three talented freshmen and cast of seven juniors to make up a bulk of the squad.
“We could be the No. 8 seed, but I sure wouldn’t want to be the No. 1,” Ice said.
Wichita South 101 — 2 5 4
Free State 4(11)2 — 17 12 1
W — Morgan Leslie.
Free State highlights: Sara Roszak 2-for-2; Tatum Clopton 3 for 3, double, grand slam, five RBIs; Taylor Burks 2 for 2, two RBIs
Wichita NW 000 000 0 — 0 3 0
Free State 201 000 1 – 4 9 0
W — Tatum Clopton.
Free State highlights: Tatum Clopton 7.0 IP, three hits, 16 strikeouts, no walks; Sara Roszak 2 for 3, home run, triple, 3 RBI.