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Breaking through: Broncos end Jaguars' stranglehold on district title

By Bill Althaus
Instead of the usual dogpile, Lee's Summit North had a more mundane celebration because of the COVID-19 pandemic, congratulating pitcher Cierra Harrison after the Broncos eclipsed Blue Springs South's hold on the district title with a 9-1 win over the Jaguars Thursday. The Broncos ended the Jaguars' run of six straight district titles and four straight final fours and avenged losses to them in the district title games the last two years.

For the past two years, the Lee’s Summit North softball team’s season has ended courtesy of the back-to-back state champion Blue Springs South Jaguars.

Cierra Harrison was in the circle for each of those losses, and Thursday afternoon at Blue Springs High School, the junior all-state pitcher finally found out what it was like to advance past a tough district challenge.

She struck out 15 Jaguars and allowed just two hits to help the Broncos claim a 9-1 Class 5 District 7 title and ending the Jaguars’ six-year run as district champions.

Lee's Summit North junior Cierra Harrison pitched a two-hitter and struck out 15 Blue Springs South batters in the Broncos' 9-1 win in the Class 5 District 7 championship game Thursday.

This has been a memorable week for Harrison as she picked up her 600th career strikeout and pitched the Broncos into the district title game with a 14-strikeout, 8-2 win over Blue Springs.

In that game, she was struck in the chest by a line drive off the bat of Blue Springs’ Izzy Milligan, but responded with the district championship gem.

“I’m a little sore, but no one was going to keep me from pitching today,” said Harrison, who improved to 21-2 for the 26-3 Broncos. “We have so much respect for Blue Springs South. They ended our season the past two years, and they were always so classy and nice. We wanted to be classy today after finally finding a way to beat them. They’re a great team and we have a lot of respect for them.”

The Broncos scored all their runs and collected all seven hits in a nine-run fourth inning. It came after freshman Madison Hoffman had pitched three perfect innings.

Lee's Summit North's Kinsey Fiedler screams as she scores a run in the Broncos' 9-1 win over Blue Springs South in the Class 5 District 7 championship. The Broncos scored all nine of their runs in the fourth inning to advance to the Class 5 state quarterfinals next Thursday.

“I didn’t know if we were ever going to get a hit off their starter,” Broncos coach John Gage said. “They’re a great team, and they have had a great run. It’s an honor to beat a team that has done such a great job representing our conference and our area.

“I hope we can keep this going and enjoy the success they have had.”

Kinsey Fiedler, the Broncos’ leadoff hitter who has committed to the University of Washington to play softball, got the Broncos’ first hit off Hoffman, and that started an offensive onslaught.

Lee's Summit North's Kinsey Fiedler, left, gestures to her teammates in the dugout after hitting a double in the fourth inning of the Class 5 District 7 championship against Blue Springs South Thursday. The Broncos scored all nine of their runs in the fourth on the way to a 9-1 win, which broke South's streak of six straight district titles.

Thirteen Broncos batted in the fourth with Fiedler getting a single and an RBI double and scoring two of the nine runs.

“They made it a great game for three innings and the thing I respect most about those (South) girls is that they never give up,” Fiedler said. “After we scored those nine runs, they were cheering for their teammates and that really impressed me.

“They did it to the last out. That’s why they have such a great program.”

The Jaguars, who finished 18-9, managed to score a run in the top of the sixth, which was a moral victory.

“We didn’t want to let them get a (five-inning, 10-run) mercy rule win,” said Jaguars senior McKenna Lester, who singled and scored on Bailey Brumley’s RBI double.

Blue Springs South's McKenna Lester scores her team's only run in a 9-1 loss to Lee's Summit North in the Class 5 District 7 championship game Thursday. The Broncos avenged losses to South in the district finals the last two years with a 9-1 victory.

“She is such a great pitcher. She’s so good, she psyches you out. I know we can hit, and when we finally got a couple of hits it was too late. We beat them the last two years and they finally got us. We all wish them a lot of luck the rest of the way.”

Hoffman, who allowed six of the nine fourth-inning runs, said the experience will be valuable next season.

“After the first three innings I was so excited because I wanted to help us win this game and keep our streak alive,” Hoffman said. “But they’re a great team. We lost, and I’m so disappointed we lost – especially for our seniors – but a lot of young players like me got a lot of experience today and we’re coming back next year.”

An emotional coach Kristi Williams – who has led the Jaguars to the last four state final fours and two state titles – had to regain her composure after the season-ending loss.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Williams said as tears streamed down her face, “and I’m not just talking about what we have done the last four years. I am proud of what we did this year.

Blue Springs South first baseman Bailey Brumley snags a hot line drive in Thursday's Class 5 District 7 championship game against Lee's Summit North. The Broncos went on to a 9-1 win.

“We have so many new players, and our seniors showed them what it takes to be a Jaguar. And I thought we showed that today when we were cheering (from the bench) even though we were down 9-0.

“That’s what Jaguar softball is all about. That’s a great North team with a great pitcher and we wish them luck. But this one was tough. It’s tough to say goodbye to some great seniors – but it’s exciting to think about next year and what all our young kids are capable of accomplishing.”

North’s Sydnee McGee finished with a single and two runs scored; Maddie Burton had a two-run single; Sydney Cure added an RBI double; and Kelsie Meisenheimer had the big hit of the inning, a two-run double.

With the addition of a fifth class in Missouri softball this season, the Broncos (26-3) will advance straight to the Class 5 state quarterfinals next Thursday against District 8 champion Park Hill (18-8).