Mustangs struggle to wrap up regular season

Iola High's Mustangs saw their torrid play of late come to a halt Tuesday. The softball team struggled offensively and defensively against the defending Class 3A runner-up Santa Fe Trail, falling 9-0 and 16-0.


May 8, 2024 - 2:16 PM

Iola High's Kyndal Bycroft bats in a game earlier this season.

CARBONDALE — Iola High’s road to the postseason hit a speed bump Tuesday.

The Mustangs, who had won 12 of their previous 14 games and had climbed to the third seed in their Class 3A regional standings, wrapped up the regular season with a pair of tough losses at Santa Fe Trail.

Sante Fe senior Kaelee Washington, a University of Kansas signee, was once again dominant, allowing only a fourth-inning single, in the Chargers’ 9-0 victory in Game 1.

After that, Game 2 became a fielding struggle as Iola committed nine errors and fell behind early in a 16-0 setback.

The defeats dropped Iola to 15-11, and the fourth seed in the upcoming regional tournament. The Mustangs (15-11) will host Neodesha (10-12) at 5 p.m. Monday at the Allen Community College softball diamond. A win there would put the girls in the tournament semifinals in Wichita on May 15 against either top seed Bluestem (20-0) or No. 8 Fredonia (2-14).

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Iola head coach Chris Weide said the focus on practice until then will be to get Iola’s players back in the right mindset.

“We had a rough game, and the message to the girls was thank goodness it wasn’t at regionals,” he said. “But you can only say that so many times before it comes back to bite you.”

Washington, who in her four years at Santa Fe Trail has yet to surrender a single run to Iola, added another feather to her softball cap with a dominating pitching performance. She struck out 18 batters over seven innings.

“She’s probably the best player I’ve seen in my years of coaching,” Weide said. “She throws the ball really hard and locates it well.

“But as good as she is, I thought we had some great at-bats. For us to put the bat on the ball against her is saying something.”

A pair of big innings did in Iola in both games.

Kinsey Schinstock handled the pitching duties in the opener, and was containing Santa Fe Trail’s potent lineup through the first three innings, before a leadoff error in the bottom of the fourth, coupled with a handful of walks, led to a six-run outburst.

That was more than enough for Washington, who struck out 10 straight batters after hitting Mustang leadoff batter Elza Clift with a pitch to lead off the first.

The streak ended when Iola’s Zoie Hesse hit a one-out single in the top of the fourth. But Hesse exited the game with an apparent ankle injury after stepping awkwardly on first base.

Weide brought in a pinch runner, but the rally ended when Reese Curry’s line drive turned into a line-out double play to end the inning.

Schinstock surrendered six hits over six innings with a pair of strikeouts.

“Kinsey did a good job, really, of holding them in check,” Weide said.

While there’s a chance Iola could see Washington again — if both teams advance to the upcoming state tournament — there’s a stronger possibility Tuesday marked the final time the Mustangs will have to bat against the multi-sport standout.

Over her four years, Washington pitched in five games against Iola, striking out 62 batters over 27 innings, allowing five hits and three walks.

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