Firebirds effective, but missed chances costly

Senior outfielder Emily Bermel hits in the first run of the game for Free State Thursday evening in the Firdbirds' game against Olathe North. FSHS fell, 6-1.

Free State High’s softball team had plenty of chances to score runs against Olathe North on Thursday, but couldn’t cash in.

The Eagles had no such problems, and the Firebirds were handed a 6-1 loss in their season-opener at FSHS.

The Firebirds took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and the Eagles responded with a five-run third inning, which included seven straight singles before recording an out.

O-North junior Alexa Sidoti, freshman Hannah Schmidt and sophomore Alexis Hodapp all had RBI singles in the third inning. Sidoti dropped a ball into right-center field and Schmidt scored two with a blooper down the right field line.

“They hit a lot of stuff off the hands,” FSHS coach Lee Ice said. “Our pitch location was good. The runs they scored weren’t necessarily on hard-hit balls. They were well-placed balls.”

In the second inning, junior first baseman Kate Stanwix hit a leadoff double and juniors Lily Ross and Liz Patton drew walks to load the bases. With two outs, senior center fielder Emily Bermel hit a single over the shortstop’s head to left field to score Stanwix.

Free State (0-1) had a few chances to score more runs, leaving two runners on in the fourth and seventh innings, and leaving the bases loaded in the sixth. O-North pitcher Halle Brin escaped a couple of those jams with timely strikeouts.

“We swing the bats better than that,” Ice said. “The timing was a little bit off. But like I told the kids, except for one bad inning, it’s a 2-1 ballgame. Any time you give up a five-spot in the third inning, it’s tough to catch up. We had opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage.”

The Firebirds were led at the plate by the power of Stanwix, who hit another double, this time to the bottom of the fence in center field, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bermel added three hits, including two infield singles.

“My dad kind of calms me down before games and stuff,” said Stanwix, who was 2-for-3 with a walk. “Just seeing him here kind of relaxed me because this is my first start for varsity today. Having my dad and all this family here today just really helped.”

The Firebirds had plenty of new faces in their starting lineup, and Ice noticed some nerves in the first few innings.

Patton, a junior pitcher, made her varsity debut in the circle and struck out four in seven innings. Though she gave up those five runs in the third inning, her teammates were happy with how she located her pitches and limited solid contact from O-North hitters.

“Lizzy threw well and I think our defense played overall well,” Stanwix said. “They just hit the ball. They just put it where they could. Not much we could do.”

Instead, the Firebirds wanted to focus on fixing their approaches at the plate to make the most of their opportunities with runners on base.

“Overall, we pitched fine, we played defense fine,” Ice said. “We just didn’t get the timely hits today and they did.”

The Firebirds will play host to Leavenworth at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

O-North 005 000 1 — 6 13 1

Free State 010 000 0 — 1 7 1

W — Halle Brin. L — Liz Patton (0-1).

2B — Kate Stanwix (2), Free State; Courtney Nemechek, O-North. 3B — Hannah Schmidt, O-North.

Free State highlights — Stanwix, 2-for-3, two doubles, run; Emily Bermel, 3-for-4, RBI.