By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
Things were looking bleak for Washington High School Thursday in a Class 4A Region 5 softball game against Clear Creek-Amana Thursday in Oxford.
At least to the casual observer, things were not looking good. Clear Creek-Amana got a hit on the first pitch they saw. The first four batters all got hits. The Clippers put three runs on the board with three consecutive hits in the second inning. The number nine hitter in the Clippers lineup cracked a solo home run that cleared the fence easily in the fourth inning for a 4-1 lead.
To the casual observer, things may have seemed bleaker still when the first two Demon batters of the fifth inning got out.
The casual observer does not know this Demon team. Four runs with two outs in the fifth and an insurance run in the sixth gave the Demons a 6-4 triumph.
?We turned it on there with some clutch two-out hitting,? Washington coach Ben Obermann said. ?We had a great approach at the plate.?
No matter the score, no matter the out, no matter the count, the Demons believed.
?Ever since two years ago when we were down 13-2 to Mid-Prairie in the fifth inning with two outs and two strikes on us and we came back and won, ever since then the girls saw that maybe this mind set works,? Obermann said. ?All the credit goes to the kids because we tell them to worry about the present and not the past and they do that.?
Senior Megan Mitchell agreed that past experiences contribute to the proper mind set. ?For us, it has happened to us more than a few times, so we know how to come back,? she said.
She proved that with the crucial hit of the game. Washington loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth inning on a Molly Spatks single, Morgan Brinning was hit by a pitch and Cara Linnenkamp was walked. As Mitchell headed to the plate, she heard a voice from the crowd.
?Before I went up there, I heard my dad yelling at me and he said, ?just hit it hard?,? Mitchell said. ?So I just stopped thinking and decided to hit it hard. That?s all you can do is not think about it.?
Being a four year starter, Mitchell has lots of experience and just let her instinct take over. She hit the ball so hard it caromed off of the CCA pitcher Raina Henze?s arm all the way into the outfield.
?When I hit it, I didn?t see where it went because I was just hurrying to first,? Mitchell said. ?Then when I seen two people scored, I was so happy.?
Kinsey Duwa had hit a stand-up double in the third inning and scored on Brinning?s single.
Mitchell?s hit made the score a 4-3 deficit. Kaitlyn Mitchell then hit a double that plated a run to tie the game. Haylee Wilson connected on the fourth hit of the inning to give the Demons a 5-4 lead and prompted CCA head coach Matt Trosky to change pitchers.
?Raina is a tough girl but Washington just start hitting the ball so I thought we needed a change of pace,? Trosky said.
CCA?s coach said things were looking up when sophomore Gracie Downs smacked the home run.
?Gracie was a junior varsity player that really came on at the end of the year so we gave her some opportunities and tonight she really took advantage of it,? Trosky said.
?At that point, I was starting to wonder that maybe it was not going to be our night,? Obermann said. Especially when we are hitting lasers but they are going right at people.?
Kellie Dallmeyer hit a laser that was the second out of the fifth inning when CCA centerfielder made a shoestring catch.
Duwa led off the sixth inning with a single, advanced on Dallmeyer?s bunt single, got to third on Sparks? sacrifice and hustled home on a passed ball.
The Demons did their part in catching balls, as they did not commit an error, playing stellar defense.
?The way we are playing defense right now makes us excited for our next opportunity,? Obermann said. ?We are on a roll defensively. We make a point to not allow any free bases. Those will hurt you every time. We want to make them earn their bases. If we do that, good things will happen.?
CCA had four straight hits to start the game and didn?t score a run. Dallmeyer caught the first baserunner stealing for an out. With the bases loaded, shortstop Brinning reached over her head for the second out and Sparks got her first of six strikeouts in the game. She did not issue a walk. After giving up eight hits in the first two innings, the only hit and only baserunner after that was the fourth-inning home run.
?We battled through some early adversity,? Obermann said. ?I have to tip my cap to Molly because she had a couple of illegal pitch calls that haven?t been called all year. Her back foot was sliding off the rubber on her curveballs and she had to make an adjustment and she did. We stayed the course and came back and that?s a testament to what great competitors these girls are. If we focus on one pitch at a time, good things will happen.?
Washington only sent four batters to the plate in each of the first four innings, but only let three CCA batters in the box in each of the final three innings.
The Demons have won a first-round game every year that Oberman has been coach. The chance at winning a second-round game for the first time comes next. That opportunity will be Saturday at 7 p.m. in Newton against 10th-ranked Newton (22-7).
?Every team from here on out is going to be ranked, but you know what, if we want to get to where we want to be, we are going to have to beat good teams,? Obermann said. ?We are excited about the opportunity. I feel like we?re playing the best softball of the year and we are going to give them our best.?
CCA ends the year with a 16-19 record. WHS is 17-21.