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Late surge lifts Wildcats into semifinals, ends Indians' season

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Blue Springs senior pitcher Abby Kinzler, center, celebrates after closing out a 13-5 win over Fort Osage in the first round of the Class 5 District 7 tournament Tuesday at Blue Springs.

Abby Kinzler’s playing career at Blue Springs was in peril late during a Class 5 District 7 showdown with Fort Osage.

The Indians held a one-run lead and the Wildcats were down their final six outs. But it turned out they only needed three.

The Wildcats scored nine runs in the bottom of the sixth and rallied for a 13-5 victory over Fort Osage at Jim Coen Field to advance to the semifinals against Lee’s Summit North – the top seed and ranked No. 2 in Class 5 in the Missouri Fastpitch Coaches Association.

“It was scary being down,” said Kinzler, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored – both coming in the sixth inning. “I’m not going to lie, as a senior, and being down, you know it could be your last game. It was a crazy inning. I knew we were starting to hit. I didn’t know we’d hit it that well, but I’m glad we did. As a team, I’m glad we picked each other up. I wish it would've happened at the beginning so we wouldn’t have the pressure from the start.”

The late offensive burst by the Wildcats wasn’t the high-water mark for the season. That was 11 runs in a Sept. 26 win against … Fort Osage, a 14-7 win for the Wildcats.

The nine runs is tied for the second most runs in an inning this year for Blue Springs, which also scored nine runs in an inning against Harrisonville in a 17-0 victory also on Sept. 26.

Blue Springs' Brooklyn Saysoff scores a run in the Wildcats' 13-5 win over Fort Osage in Class 5 District 7 play Tuesday.

Kinzler opened the sixth inning with a single, stole second base and scored on Kadence Shepherd’s double to right field. That tied it 5-5 and Shepherd scored the go-ahead run on a groundout by Brooke Niemann.

With two outs on the board, the Wildcats’ next eight batters reached safely and seven more runs came across the plate as Fort Osage used three different pitchers in the inning.

Matti Peters singled and later scored on a wild pitch. Makenna DeLaney and Cejai Holland drew walks and scored on Izzy Milligan’s bases-clearing triple.

Brooklyn Saysoff welcomed new pitcher Emma James with a double. Kinzler and Shepherd each got hits in their second at-bats in the inning and Lexie Splichal’s single drove in Shepherd for the final run of the game and chased James from the mound.

“I told them before the bottom of the sixth we have a little bit of time, we are the home team – just take a deep breath. We’ve got to stay loose and got to have fun,” Blue Springs first-year coach Anna Cole said. “If we get too tense and we are trying to do too much, we will swing out of our shoes and won’t put a good swing on it. I told them to focus on getting singles. We wanted base runners and singles.

“They came out and gave me doubles. I will take what I can get.”

Blue Springs pitcher Brooklyn Saysoff, center, slaps gloves with teammate Matti Peters, right, as Abby Kinzler, left, and Kadence Shepherd leap to celebrate a strikeout in Tuesday's 13-5 win over Fort Osage in a Class 5 District 7 first-round game.

Fort Osage (15-12) had one base runner in the top of the seventh but Kinzler struck out two of the three batters she faced in her only inning of work.

The victory went to freshman Peyton Jones, who threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief after entering in the top of the fifth with one out.

She got a line drive double play to escape the frame, in which Fort Osage surged ahead 5-3. Aspen Treadwell and Kyra McIntosh each drew walks and pulled off a double steal. Treadwell then broke for home on the same play, breaking the 3-3 tie. 

Alysa Garlock then lofted a fly ball to right field to score McIntosh. A single by James then chased Saysoff, Blue Springs’ starting pitcher.

The Wildcats (11-16) got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when DeLany singled and scored on Milligan’s RBI single.

The star of the game for the Wildcats was Shepherd, a freshman who hit a two-run homer and went 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs scored and four RBI. Her home run – the sixth of the season – came in the bottom of the second and gave the Wildcats a 3-2 lead at the time.

For the Wildcats' season to continue past Wednesday, they will need to snap a lengthy losing skid. The Broncos have won the past 11 against Blue Springs, dating back to 2017. This year the Broncos are 3-0 with a pair of Suburban Big Eight wins – 10-0 and 15-8 – and a 4-3 win against Blue Springs in a tournament.

The Broncos (24-3) have won 11 of their past 12 games and had a first-round bye.

“They are a great team and we know it will be hard,” Cole said. “We’ve got hope and we are excited to come out tomorrow and play. We will give them our best game."