Local all-stars help Missouri sweep Kansas in Mo-Kan Series
SHAWNEE, Kan. — The fingerprints of many Eastern Jackson County softball standouts were all over Missouri's two dramatic victories in the 18th annual Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Series Monday.
Lee’s Summit North coach John Gage's squad swept Kansas, taking the first game 6-5 and the second 7-6 at the Shawnee Mission School District Softball Complex.
Truman's Myel White pitched three innings of relief to save the first game for Park Hill's Kaylyn Jones, and then hit a bloop single with the bases loaded to tie the second game 6-all in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Raymore-Peculiar's Laney Killpack followed with a single to account for the game-winning run. Jones, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Missouri team, retired Kansas without allowing a run in the bottom of the seventh.
"For three years we've been trying to find a way to beat Kaylyn," joked Gage, who led Lee's Summit North to the state championship game last fall, "and now here I am on the bench with my girls cheering for her. That's what's so great about these all-star games. You get to know the kids you compete against and it's a lot of fun.
"It's also a lot of fun to win, especially when you're representing your school and your state against Kansas."
With the win, Missouri improved to 11-7 against their Kansas rivals in the series.
For some tense innings, it appeared Kansas would roar back from its 6-5 loss in the first game as coach JoAnn Calvin's team led 6-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning. Madi O'Farrell of Olathe North had the big hit for Kansas, a pinch-hit grand slam in the top of the fourth inning.
"We didn't want to play three games," said Blue Springs South all-star McKenna Lester, who had a two-run double in the sixth inning and played first base. "We love playing softball, but we wanted to end it in the second game, and there was so much energy on the bench when we started getting all those hits. It was really cool – and fun.”
Lee's Summit North's Sydney Cure collected an RBI single in the inning and her Broncos teammate, Maddie Burton, had a sacrifice fly that scored the fifth run. Their teammate, Halle Howes, also played for Missouri.
"It was great sharing all the fun with the girls from South," Burton said. "We've tried to beat them for so many years, and for one special night we were all teammates.
"And having Myel on the team was special, too. Really, we all knew each other from comp ball or playing during the (high school) season. We wanted to get that win in the second game and we were able to do it. And I wanted to play for Coach Gage one more time. It was a perfect night."
White, who allowed two runs in three innings to collect the save in the first game, was thrilled to be a part of the Missouri all-star squad.
"This is just so cool," said White, who played first base, along with Lester, in the second game. "You know I wanted to get that hit in the second game and I wanted to get the save in the first game."
There was a bit of controversy as Sara Roszak of Lawrence Free State hit a two-run homer off White after an umpire called a ball that appeared to be bobbled in foul territory a triple. Gage pleaded his case to no avail.
The two-run homer cut Kansas’ deficit to 6-5, but White retired the final batter to set the stage for the second game.
"The best thing about all-star games," said Blue Springs South's Tori Bradley, "is that you get to be teammates with all the girls you've played against these years."
As she talked about the game, Burton loaded her gear into Bradley's Jeep.
"See what I mean?" Bradley said, grinning. "Teammates for a night, friends forever."
Lester finished the night with three singles, a double, a run and two RBIs.
"We just wanted to win tonight, and have fun," Lester said, "and we were all able to do that."
Longtime Raymore-Peculiar coach James Brown had a blast and tried to upstage Gage, who coached third in the first game while the team failed to score a run.
"The girls didn't score the two innings John coached third in the first game," Brown said chuckling, "but he made up for it with that six-run sixth inning in the second game. John and I and our teams have competed against each other for years and tonight we got two very special wins."
The Missouri first base coach was Grain Valley's Garrett Ogle, who has been a head coach for three seasons.
"This is my first all-star game," Ogle said, "and I'll never forget it. What a great night."