Red Devils lose finale, to host playoff

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Shortstop Shawna Blakesley sets to throw the softball to first during a home game for Allen County Community College. The Red Devils lost two games Tuesday at home against Pratt Community College but will host a playoff series this weekend.

It wasn’t the ending to the regular season Allen County Community College’s Red Devils wanted — losing their final two games. But they did achieve one of their team goals — host a first-round playoff series.
Allen County finished the season at 26-28 overall. The Red Devils went 15-11 in Jayhawk Eastern Division play.
But most important, the Red Devils were 19-11 in NJCAA Region VI, Division II action. That puts them as the No. 6 seed in the Region VI, Division II tournament and hands them a home playoff series this weekend.
“If you’re hosting a playoff series then it means your team finished in the top half of the region standings and that’s what you want,” said Ed Wilkerson, ACCC head softball coach.
“Our standing is firm at the sixth seed but today (Wednesday) is the final day of region play and what happens in games today will determine which team we host.”
ACCC athletic director Randy Weber said Region VI, which is all two-year colleges in Kansas, will have two bids to the NJCAA Division II national tournament because it has so many teams. Region VI has 16 Division II softball teams.
The top eight teams in the standings will host a best-of-three playoff series this weekend. Winners advance into the Region VI Division II tournament in Wichita, May 2-3. There are two districts in Region VI tournament play to determine the two national tournament bids.
Allen County is in District E of the Region VI tournament. District D has eight teams in it.
This is the first year for this format for Region VI, Weber said. He said it was looking like ACCC’s opponent this weekend would be either Dodge City or Neosho County “but we have to wait until after Wednesday’s games.”
The first of the best-of-three series is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at the ACCC softball field.
Allen County finished the regular season at home Tuesday against 12th-ranked Pratt Community College. The Red Devils ended up losing 6-4 and 7-5.
“Pratt executes offensively and defensively very well. They put a lot of pressure on you and you have to earn every thing offensively,” Wilkerson said.
“We had opportunities in both games but never got the key hits.”
Pratt, which is tied for second in the region, used the long ball to beat ACCC in the first game. Daniella Leal hit two solo home runs and Cassie Barber planted a three-run shot over the fence.
That was five of Pratt’s six runs in the game.
Down 5-0, the Red Devils climbed back into the game with two runs in the fifth. Kate Gibson and Shawna Blakesley had back-to-back singles. With two gone, Dana Stephenson drove in the runs on a triple.
After Leal’s second home run in the top of the sixth, Allen County got the run back in its half of the inning. Kristina Popejoy doubled and Autumn Lamle had a one-out double. Gibson’s ground-out brought in the run.
Both teams stranded seven base runners in the game. Allen County had three runners on base after scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh.
Chalice Schmollinger reached on an error followed by singles by Terra Woods and Stephenson. With one gone, Popejoy got on because of a Pratt error allowing a run to score.
The Red Devils were down by two runs with three on and one out. The next two ACCC batters struck out to end the game.
Whitney Sullivan was the losing pitcher for ACCC. She allowed nine hits, walked three and struck out seven.
Stephenson led the offensive assault for the Red Devils with two singles and a triple. Popejoy and Lamle had a double apiece.
Hitting a single each were Jordan Talley, Gibson, Blakesley and Woods.
Allen County faced the same situation in the second game, down by three heading into its final at-bat. The Red Devils scored one run and left the bases loaded, losing by two runs.
The Red Devils led 3-2 after three innings. They scored a run in the first for a 1-1 tie. Stephenson tripled and scored on a single by Popejoy. Pratt led 2-1 after two innings.
In the third, Popejoy walked and with two gone, Gibson doubled to plate the run. Blakesley had an RBI single.
Pratt (25-5, 37-11) used six hits and an ACCC error to produce five runs in the fifth inning. Allen County manufactured a run in its half of the inning, taking advantage of two errors.
Lamle reached on an error to start the seventh for ACCC. Gibson hit into a fielder’s choice then Blakesley and Amy McAfee had base hits to fill the bases. Woods reached on an error as a run scored.
The next two hitters flied out and grounded out to end the game. Allen County left 12 base runners in the game.
Brianne Campbell went the distance on the mound for ACCC. She surrendered 12 hits, walked five, hit two batters and struck out four.
McAfee and Blakesley had two singles each. Stephenson tripled and Gibson doubled. Popejoy and Talley each had a base hit.
“We’re a young team with four sophomores. We’ve put ourselves in a position to be very competitive again this season. We continue to get better,” Wilkerson said.
“We’re looking forward to having this home playoff series and getting to Wichita.”