Red Devils break into Region VI tourney

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
It was all smiles for Allen County Community College’s softball team Saturday. Third baseman Shawna Blakesley is congratulated by teammate Chalice Schmollinger (14) after throwing out a Cloud County Community College runner to end the first of two playoff games Saturday. The Red Devils went on to beat Cloud County in the second game to advance to the Region VI, Division II District E tournament.
Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Allen County Community College’s Dana Stephenson goes after a double play against Cloud County Community College in a playoff series here Saturday.

Freshman Jordan Talley found the perfect time to hit her second home run of the 2009 season. Talley’s two-run, walk-off home run Saturday propelled Allen County Community College’s Red Devil softball team into the Region VI, Division II tournament.
“We really were trying to bunt in the situation,” said Ed Wilkerson, ACCC head coach, “Kristina (Popejoy) had walked and we put Amy Carr in to pinch run. Jordan’s first attempted was foul. She was to show bunt, pull it back then bunt it.
“The next pitch was in the dirt and Amy went to second on the wild pitch. So I took the bunt off and wanted Jordan just to slap hit it. She just slapped it over the fence.”
Talley’s two-run homer lifted the Red Devils to a 3-2 win over Cloud County Community College. That win combined with a 6-4 victory in the opener of the Region VI, Division II playoff series Saturday means Allen County advances into the double-elimination tournament.
“We did what we had to do to win these games and move into the tournament in Wichita. We had some tough spots defensively to work through in both games but our defense also gave us some plays to get out of situations,” Wilkerson said.
Winning the best-of-three series at home Saturday and not having to play Sunday aligned the Red Devils with the other teams in the tournament. No first-round series in either district of the NJCAA Region VI, Division II playoffs went more than two games over the weekend.
Kansas — Region VI — will have two teams going into the NJCAA, Division I national softball tournament so the region is divided into two districts for playoffs. Allen County is in District E in the tournament in Wichita this weekend.
The Red Devils (28-28) play Pratt (37-11) at noon Saturday at the Twin Rivers Sports Complex in Wichita. The winner of the District E double-elimination tournament moves on to the national tournament. In the other side of the bracket, Johnson County (30-11) plays Labette (24-23).
In District D, Cowley County (46-5) plays Hutchinson (21-27) and Highland (29-13) takes on Fort Scott (34-21). On the line is a berth in the national tournament.
“We just played Pratt at home and we know Pratt executes well offensively and defensively. They put pressure on you when they get on base — they steal bases,” Wilkerson said. “We need to slow them down and take our time in trying to make plays. We got in a hurry when we played them earlier and made mistakes.”
Allen County made mistakes defensively Saturday against Cloud County but was able to overcome five errors in the first game and four in the second contest. The Red Devils trailed early in both games.
“We got solid pitching from both Whitney (Sullivan) and Brianne (Campbell). On Monday (April 20) when we played Cloud, we gave up 14 and 13 hits in games that were 11-10 and 12-10 scores. Saturday Cloud only had 12 hits combined in the games,” Wilkerson said.
“When we made mistakes, the girls kept their composure and we never allowed Cloud to have those big scoring innings.”
Cloud County’s Thunderbirds took advantage of three ACCC errors to score one run in the first inning. They took a 2-0 lead in the second by using two singles and a hit batter a pitch to load the bases with two gone.
Sarah Stutts singled for Cloud County but the Red Devils gave up just one run in the situation. ACCC sophomore pitcher Whitney Sullivan got a groundout from the next hitter.
Not until the third inning did the Red Devils finally get on the scoreboard. Chalice Schmollinger reached on an error followed by a single from Terra Woods. Dana Stephenson hit an RBI base hit then Popejoy drew a one-out walk to load the bases.
Talley’s fielder’s choice still had the bases loaded for ACCC. Shawna Blakesley delivered a two-run single to put the Red Devils in front 3-2.
Allen County got out of a tough situation defensively in the fourth. They were able to throw behind a Cloud County runner at second tagging her out. ACCC catcher Kate Gibson picked off Cloud County’s Lauren Dockter throwing to third base where Blakesley applied the tag.
Sullivan walked two batters in the fifth and a single allowed the Thunderbirds tie the game. The rally was cut short when a runner tried to go from first to third on the hit and was tagged out at third by Allen County.
The Red Devils responded by scoring three runs in their half of the fifth after two were out in the inning. With two on and two gone, Blakesley drove in two more runs on a single then stole second base. Autumn Lamle connected for an RBI single.
Cloud County scored a run in the sixth and had a runner at third. Devin Choate grounded into a double play as Blakesley tagged a the runner trying to score from third then threw to first to get Choate. Cloud County had another opening in the seventh when ACCC had an error but two fielder’s choices and a fly ball to shortstop ended the threat and the game.
Stephenson had three singles in the game. Blakesley two base hits. Popejoy, Lamle and Woods each had one single.
Sullivan improved to 8-6 pitching as she allowed eight hits, walked four and hit a batter. She struck out four batters.
Cloud County used a two-out double and an ACCC error to score twice in the first inning of the second game. Allen County’s Brianne Campbell kept the game close as she limited the Thunderbirds to four hits, only walked one and struck out four.
Lamle, who leads the team in home runs, cranked out a solo home run in the fifth with two gone. Then came Talley’s last at-bat heroics in the seventh to win it. Stephenson had the only other hit in the game for ACCC, a single.
“Our players handled the windy conditions and stayed focused. We got the breaks to go our way. We really wanted to finish the series on Saturday and the girls found a way to do that. Now, we concentrate on playing better as we go to the tournament,” Wilkerson said.