Firebirds rip Raiders
For the first time this season, Free State High’s softball players swung their bats the way they wanted.
After the Firebirds were shut out and held to just three hits in their last game, they exploded for 13 hits in a 14-4 rout of Shawnee Mission South on Saturday afternoon at FSHS.
The Firebirds scored at least three runs in four of the five innings before ending the game because of the 10-run rule. They finished with three straight doubles from junior Kate Stanwix, sophomore Dacia Starr and junior Cali Byrn.
“We hit the ball this time,” senior center fielder Emily Bermel said. “We squared a lot more than usual. Last game, we only had three hits, which is not very good. But we played a lot better today.”
The Raiders (1-5) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning after their first three batters had base hits. Entering the game, the Firebirds knew the Raiders had a strong punch at the top of their lineup. SM South’s first five hitters combined for six of its seven hits and all four runs.
But the Firebirds (2-2) made sure they weren’t hurt by the bottom of the order and played solid defense in the infield and outfield. Against the last three hitters in the lineup, FSHS pitcher Elizabeth Patton gave up just one hit in six at-bats and struck out four.
“We pitched OK last game (against Olathe Northwest). We played defense OK last game,” FSHS coach Lee Ice said. “The bats just have been too quiet. Outside of Leavenworth, we scored one run in two games. Even against Leavenworth, we only had seven hits and three in the last game. So it’s just a matter of getting the bats woke up.”
In the bottom of the first inning, the first three FSHS batters — Bermel, senior Kylie Cobb and junior Emily Byers — reached base and came around to score. Bermel, who will play for Kansas University next year, added an RBI single in the second inning.
“For me personally, I got on my first time, and usually I tend to do better when I get on in my first at-bat,” said the speedy Bermel, who stole two bases and had one infield hit. “I don’t know … our attitudes were better. We were more positive and ready to go today.”
After scoring just one run in the third inning, the Firebirds scored three more in the fourth. Starr hit an RBI single, and senior shortstop Lily Ross hit a two-run triple into the left-center gap.
“If it’s close, then I’m just going to do my best to hit it,” said Starr, the Firebirds’ left fielder who went 3-for-4 with three runs and a team-best three RBIs.
Free State, which took advantage of five SM South errors to extend innings, also worked ahead in counts instead of watching strikes in previous games. That allowed the Firebirds to sit on pitches and drive them to the outfield.
“This is what this team is about: pitching, defense, and we can swing the bats and get 13, 14 hits and score 10 to 12 runs,” Ice said. “We’re capable of doing that. We know that.”
The Firebirds will play SM Northwest at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at FSHS.
SM South 202 00 — 4 7 5
Free State 331 34 — 14 13 0
W — Elizabeth Patton, 2-2. L — Katlyn Schiefen.
2B — Sidney Holler, Christina Mountain, SM South; Kate Stanwix, Dacia Starr, Cali Byrn, Free State. 3B — Lily Ross, Free State.
Free State highlights — Emily Bermel, 3-for-4, 3 runs, 2 stolen bases, RBI; Kylie Cobb, 2-for-4, 3 runs; Starr, 3-for-4, 3 runs, 3 RBI; Byrn, 2-for-3, 2 RBI.