Iola’s postseason run ends in 3A regional semifinal

After being held without a baserunner and falling behind 4-0 after four innings, Iola High's Mustangs rallied in the fifth inning, but could not overcome the deficit in a 4-2 loss to Bluestem in the 3A regional semifinals. Iola ends with a 16-12 record.

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Sports

May 16, 2024 - 2:25 PM

Iola High's Brooklyn Holloway enters a slide as she scores the second run of the game for the Mustangs against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

WICHITA —Iola High’s 4-2 setback to Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A playoffs left the softball team’s head coach disappointed with the loss, but yearning for next year to come in a hurry.

“I’ve been telling everybody. I’m ready for school to be over, but I’m not ready for softball to be over,” Mustang head coach Chris Weide said. 

Despite an occasional hiccup on defense, and a tough day at the plate against both of Bluestem’s ace pitchers, the Mustangs battled to the end against the unbeaten Lions with some gutsy pitching from junior Elza Clift and some spectacular plays behind her.

“Coming here, we just wanted to give ourselves a chance, and we did that,” Weide said. “I was proud of them for battling against a really good team.”

Clift effectively kept the wraps on a powerful Bluestem lineup that averaged nearly 16 runs a game headed into the regional semifinal showdown.

Iola High’s Reese Curry connects on a double against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High’s Brooklyn Holloway reacts after hauling in a long drive at the base of the center field fence against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High pitcher Eliza Clift throws to first base against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High’s Elza Clift prepares to deliver a pitch against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High’s Baylie Crooks, right, slides home safely just under the tag of Bluestem pitcher Pilar Cox Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High first baseman Kaysin Crusinbery, right, fields a throw against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola HIgh’s Mustangs watch from the dugout during Wednesday’s Class 3A regional playoff game against Bluestem. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High head coach Chris Weide, center, addresses the Mustangs following a 4-2 setback against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High shortstop Zoie Hesse fires to first base in an attempt to complete a double play against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
Iola High pitcher Elza Clift delivers against Bluestem Wednesday in the Class 3A regional playoffs. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register
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And were it not for a couple of untimely errors, Clift may well have ended with a shutout.

A first-inning error paved the way for Bluestem to zip out to a 2-0 lead three batters into the game. The second error, coming with runners on second and third in the fourth frame, plated two more unearned runs.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs were trying in vain to catch up with the pitching of Bluestem’s Pilar Cox, who was perfect through the first four innings. Cox struck out nine of the first 12 batters she faced, and did not allow a hit past the pitching circle.

But that changed in the top of the fifth. Mustang catcher Reese Curry roped a line drive to the right field fence for a leadoff double. Brooklyn Holloway then lined the next pitch back up the middle, sending courtesy runner Baylie Crooks to third base. Crooks then snuck in under the tag at home plate on a passed ball for Iola’s first run. Kyndal Bycroft followed with a sacrifice fly to score Holloway.

But after Kaysin Crusinbery walked, Bluestem head coach Michelle Womacks opted to bring in Bridget Mohr, the Lions’ other ace pitcher.

Mohr was dominant, retiring all eight batters she faced the rest of the way, striking out six.

“We knew they had two really good pitchers,” Weide said. “They throw about the same speed, but they have a little different movement. They located their pitches very well. And as one of the girls just said, it had some crazy spin on it.”

The pitchers were particularly effective at keeping the ball just out of reach when Iola tried to bunt.

“We wanted to get some bunts down and take advantage of their defense, but it was hard putting the bat on the ball,” Weide said.

Clift was equally as tough, limiting the Lions to one hit over six innings with four strikeouts and zero earned runs, although she walked five and hit two other batters, which meant having to deliver high-leverage pitches with runners on base.

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