Free State softball comes up short in another regular-season loss to Washburn Rural
photo by: Chance Parker
OLATHE — The bad news: Free State softball came up short, 3-2, against Washburn Rural on Friday.
The good news?
In 2019, the Firebirds were forced to recover from a similar regular-season loss to Washburn Rural — and they bounced back big, eventually avenging that defeat in the 6A state championship game.
Now FSHS head coach Lee Ice is hoping his team can follow the same blueprint again.
“It’s kind of where we were two years ago,” Ice said. “That’s a team that we hope to see postseasonwise and learn from it. We will be better.”
Friday’s cold and wet game at the College Boulevard Activity Center was not only the Firebirds’ first loss of the year, but also their first since the 2019 regular season.
In Washburn Rural’s regular-season meeting with Free State two years ago, the Junior Blues won on a walk-off in a 5-2 victory. This time around, though, the Firebirds (7-1) actually had an opportunity to win in dramatic fashion.
Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, FSHS scored two runs, but the Firebirds ultimately left the game-tying run stranded at second base. Junior Jasmine Brixius, the team’s reliable No. 2 hitter, started off the rally with a one-out infield single.
Senior shortstop Sara Roszak, who recorded three of Free State’s four hits, followed suit with a base knock to left. Senior pitcher Tatum Clopton brought Brixius home on a RBI groundout, and Roszak later scored with some savvy base running on a wild pitch.
Washburn Rural senior pitcher Olivia Bruno, who is signed to play for the University of Kansas next year, then ended the contest with back-to-back strikeouts. The first whiff came on a swinging third strike from junior McKenzie Marcum; she appeared to get a piece of it, but it was not ruled a foul tip.
“It sucks that the call didn’t go our way on that foul tip,” senior catcher Georgia Rea said. “Ball games are going to go left and right just by a single call. I’m really proud of what we put up today and our fight.”
But if these two teams do end up meeting again, the Firebirds will also have to do a better job of putting something together earlier in the contest.
Washburn Rural (4-2) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third off a sacrifice fly. The Junior Blues scored two runs in the fifth, including a solo homer by junior Campbell Bagshaw to begin the frame. The second run was scored on a throwing error by Rea, who misfired on a pickoff attempt.
“We need to get ahead early,” Rea said. “Really figure out what she’s throwing, get ahead of the count. It’s really all about putting runs on the board first and drawing blood first. When we get behind, it’s not hanging your head and not getting down.”
Free State left a total of 10 players on base, but a zero in the bottom of the fifth loomed large.
With two outs, FSHS strung together some quality at-bats to load the bases. Rea drew a walk after her pop-up earlier in the at-bat was not caught by the catcher. Brixius followed suit with a walk, and Roszak loaded the bases on an infield single.
Clopton, Free State’s cleanup hitter, then hit a rocket back to the opposing pitcher for an inning-ending putout.
“We had the right people up,” Ice said. “Everything was in place; we just didn’t get the key base hit. We will put it back together and regroup.”
Free State had another opportunity to get on the board in the sixth. After Robin Todd managed to work a one-out walk, Ice elected to use junior Kay Lee Richardson for the first time all year.
Richardson, who hit a school-record nine homers and 37 RBIs two years ago, had been sidelined with an injury to start the season and was recently cleared to play. She took a couple of hacks but eventually earned a walk in her pinch-hit appearance.
“It probably wasn’t fair to her, but she was ready,” Ice said. “I asked her before the game and she was ready to play.”
FSHS freshman Megan Kohl, who hit four home runs in a recent junior varsity game, then struck out to end the sixth.
With their first match against Washburn Rural behind them, the Firebirds aren’t sulking. They know they’re likely to get a chance for revenge.
“We did all we could; we made mistakes,” Rea said. “But I do think it prepared us for what’s to come. Definitely for (postseason), where I’m sure we will be seeing them.”
Free State 27, Lansing 5
After their loss to Washburn Rural, the Firebirds bounced back to beat Lansing 27-5 in three innings during the second outing of Friday’s doubleheader.
Marcum and Rea both blasted home runs in the lopsided win. Marcum finished with six RBIs, and Rea drove in three runs on her lone hit.
Richardson went 1-for-1 with three RBIs, three walks and four runs scored against Lansing. Leah Mueller and Kinsey Clopton recorded two RBIs apiece as well. Kinsey Clopton allowed one hit over three innings of work.
Up next, Free State will travel to Mill Valley at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Game 1: Washburn Rural 3, Free State 2
WR 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 — 3 3 1
FS 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 — 2 4 2
Game 2: Free State 27, Lansing 5
LNS 1 2 2 — 5 1 1
FS 17 10 X — 27 7 0