No longer underdogs, Free State softball begins 2019 with 4-1 win

Free State sophomore Tatum Clopton throws a pitch in a game against Olathe Northwest on Monday, March 25.

An opening game against Olathe Northwest now has a different feel to it.

To start the 2018 campaign, Free State’s softball team earned a win over the then-defending state champion Olathe Northwest to prove that they were no longer the underdog. Now, with a state title of their own, it’s the Firebirds who know that they have a target on their backs after defeating the Ravens last May.

“Every game that we face people, those are the type of expectations,” Free State coach Lee Ice said. “I think we’re the ones being hunted right now. I don’t think we’ll be an underdog in many games this season, if any.”

The Firebirds, who won their first state title in program history last season, scored four runs on nine hits to earn a 4-1 win over Olathe Northwest Monday evening at FSHS in the 2019 season opener.

Sophomore Tatum Clopton (1-0) opened the season with 17 strikeouts in her complete game outing. She only gave up one hit, a double from Northwest senior Loren Beggs who would score an unearned run because of an error by the catcher.

With no outs in the bottom of the third inning and two runners on base, Clopton sent a ball to center field for a 3-run shot to put the Firebirds ahead. It came after Georgia Rea and Annie Roszak each reached first with base knocks.

The Firebirds added another run in the sixth inning off an error on the pitcher. Jasmine Brixius scored as Sara Roszak reached first, advancing Rea to third as well.

Brixius, Rea and Clopton each had multihit games, with Clopton going 3-for-3 at the plate. Lauren Jones and Maci Miles also each reached base safely.

To close the game in the top of the seventh, Clopton threw a changeup to finish her 17th strikeout and the second out of the inning. Rea caught an infield fly for the final out of the game to seal the win.

“That pitch has been a process,” Clopton said. “As I kept developing as a pitcher, I kept being told I needed that pitch, so I worked as hard as I possibly could to get it as good as I could, and I am really happy with the spot of it right now.”

With it being the first game of the season, Ice still feels that the Firebirds have room to improve.

“We didn’t swing the bat as good as I thought we could,” Ice said. “We didn’t execute and score the way we’re capable of. I think we’ll score more runs than that.”

Free State will travel to Shawnee Mission North at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Free State 4, Olathe Northwest 1.

ONW 000 010 0 – 1 1 2

FS 003 001 X – 4 9 1

Free State highlights: Tatum Clopton, 3 for 3, shutout, 17 strikeouts, home run, 3 RBI; Georgia Rea: 2 for 4, run; Jasmine Brixius, 2 for 3, run.

W – Tatum Clopton, L – Emily Bowman

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