Broncos drop 1-0 duel in state championship

Eli Hoff
Columbia Daily Tribune
Lee's Summit North coach John Gage comforts his team after they lost to the Columbia Rock Bridge Bruins in the Class 5 State Softball Championship at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield Friday.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –  It stayed in the air a long time for a shallow fly ball.

“It was just like forever, watching it,” Lee’s Summit North softball coach John Gage said.

When the ball dropped, the runner on third took off for home and scored on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. It would be the only run scored in the Class 5 state championship game, and it belonged to Columbia Rock Bridge.

The No. 1-ranked Bruins defeated the No. 2 Broncos 1-0 in a pitchers’ duel that saw three total hits and 24 strikeouts.

Lee’s Summit North’s Cierra Harrison was dominant, striking out the first 10 batters she faced and keeping a no-hitter through five innings. 

“Cierra pitched her heart out,” Gage said.

Despite her early streak of punchout perfection, the only hit Harrison allowed ended up leading to that crucial run.

Lee's Summit North's Kinsey Fiedler dives back into first base as the ball hits her and Columbia Rock Bridge's Maren Jones attempts to field the ball.

National No. 1 recruit Kinsey Fiedler almost gave the Broncos an early start with a leadoff hit, but Lee’s Summit North was never able to string together much contact. Fiedler, a Washington commit who went 2-for-3 with a stolen base to end her high school career, was the only Broncos player to reach second base.

As good as Harrison was inside the circle, her counterpart was just as effective. Rock Bridge’s Ella Schouten relied more on her defense but still only allowed three baserunners.

“We knew it was gonna be tough because she’s the best lefty we’ve faced all year,” Gage said. “We figured the first time through [the batting order] we’d make adjustments and we’d get on her, but we just never could make that adjustment.”

Rock Bridge senior Madeline Snider crosses the plate for a run ahead of the throw to Lee's Summit North catcher Sydney Cure  during the Class 5 State Softball Championship Friday. It was the game's only run as Rock Bridge topped the Broncos 1-0.

Though the Broncos had a chance to bat after the Bruins’ sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning, they couldn’t get anything going. A strikeout, groundout and another strikeout sealed their fate as runner-up to an undefeated program.

While short on offense and fast-paced, the title game was balanced and entertaining – almost a coin-flip between teams.

“I guess that’s how you want a state championship to be, but it’s much easier to be on the other side of the coin,” Gage said.

A Columbia Rock Bridge Bruins runner beats the tag from Lee's Summit North shortstop Kinsey Fiedler to second base in the Class 5 state championship game Friday. Fiedler and the Broncos suffered a 1-0 loss.

Gage spoke at length to his somber team after the game. There were tears and hugs, but also some smiles and a little bit of laughter. The Broncos made it to the title game in Springfield, after all, and the game had been about as close as a game can be.

The Lee’s Summit North coach had some words of wisdom for his players as they walked away from Killian Stadium:

“There’s a lot more to life, especially in this time of the world,” Gage said. “We’re family and we’re going to get through this.”

The Rock Bridge Bruins girls softball team celebrates after they beat the Lee's Summit North Broncos in the Class 5 State Softball Championship at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield Friday.