Although they have compiled yet another 40 win season this year, home runs havenít been a huge part of the Seward County Lady Saints repertoire this season. That changed last week as they traveled to El Dorado and Great Bend with the conference championship on the line. Seward launched 6 long balls and scored 26 runs in the 4 game set to come back 3-1 and champions for the second straight year of the Jayhawk West Conference.
Seward took on their rival, the Butler Lady Grizzlies in game one of their trip, a fitting way for the title to be decided on the second to last day of the season between the two historic titans of the Jayhawk West Conference. The Lady Saints would come out ready to play and jumped to a 2-0 lead in their first at bats behind a leadoff single from Alicia Reyes and a 2 run home run from Brianna Baron to put them ahead right off the bat. Seward would not be able to add onto their lead in the next two innings but Lady Saints pitcher Erin Roufosse would face just one batter over the minimum while putting zeroís on the board for Butler in the first 3 innings as Seward led 2-0 after 3. Baron would walk to leadoff the 4th inning for Seward and after a costly two out error by Butler, would later score on another misplayed ball by the Griz to put the Lady Saints up 3-0. Roufosse would strand a single Butler runner on base in each of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th innings and the Lady Saints would need no more offense as the Seward ace shut the Grizzlies out in a 3-0 win to give Seward at least a share of the Jayhawk West crown. Roufosse was again spectacular for Seward, throwing her second straight shutout against Butler this season by going all 7 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4. Roufosse was so dominate in this start that she held the first five Butler hitters to a combined 0 for 14 in the game, keeping speed threats Blair Books and Kacy Covert off the bases in 6 trips. Baron provided all the offense Seward would need in the 1st inning with her 2 run blast as the sophomore 3rd baseman finished the game accounting for all 3 Lady Saint runs by driving in a pair and scoring a pair in the victory. Reyes was the only other Seward hitter to pick up multiple hits in the game as she finished 2 for 4 at the top of the lineup, scoring on Baronís home run in the 1st.
In game two the Lady Saints again jumped all over the home team early scoring 4 runs before Butler even had a chance to step to the plate. Alicia Reyes again led off the game with a single, setting the table for the middle of the Seward lineup. Marisa Coats took advantage this time as she crushed the first pitch she saw over the center field fence for a 2 run home run to put the Lady Saints up 2-0. Brianna Baron was next and she would pick up game two right where she left off in game one with a towering home run over the left field wall to put Seward up 3-0. The Lady Saints werenít done yet though as Brittany Kent lined a ball to the left center field wall for a double and would later come around to score on a two out RBI single from Lynda Musick to make it 4-0 Seward after 1. In the 2nd, the Lady Saints would string together three consecutive singles, started by Reyes and finished by Coats to push the lead to 5-0 and keep Butler on their heels. Just when you thought that Seward had knocked the wind out of the Lady Griz and were ready to put their foot down and cruise to the outright conference title, the gals in purple and black had other ideas. Butler would take advantage of a pair of Seward errors in the 3rd and score 4 runs, 3 unearned as they batted around in the inning. After the dust settled in the inning the Lady Saints still had the lead 5-4 but the momentum had definitely shifted Butlerís way and it wasnít broken by a quick top of the 4th for Seward. Right back to the sticks Butler went and continued their offensive assault scoring 3 runs on four consecutive hits to take a 7-5 lead and put the Lady Saints on their heels much as Butler had been early in the game themselves. The Lady Griz would leave the bases loaded in both the 5th and 6th innings but it wouldnít matter as Seward managed just one hit in the last three innings, going quietly 1-2-3 in the 7th to give Butler the 7-5 win. The Butler win would keep the Lady Saints from celebrating a conference championship all of their own for the time being as Butler was still mathematically in the equation 2 games out with 2 games for each team to go. Reyes had another big day at the top of the Seward lineup, going 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored while Coats also filled up the stat sheet with 2 hits and 3 RBIís in the contest. Musick had her second multi hit game of the week as she went 2 for 3 while Kent and Baron both finished with a hit and a run scored.
With the game two loss against Butler on Thursday, the Lady Saints were now forced to win one of their two games with last place Barton on Friday, a team they handled easily earlier in the season. However, the Lady Cougars, playing for virtually nothing but pride in the double dip, were not going to let the Lady Saints have the title as easily as some may have expected. After leaving two runner on in the 1st, Seward committed a throwing error to open up the Barton half of the inning and after some small ball behind the blunder, the Cougs had their first run of the season against the Lady Saints and were up 1-0. Neither team would score in the 2nd inning but Seward would get on the board in the 3rd as singles from Alicia Reyes and Shelby Casey to open the inning turned into runs after RBI hits from Marisa Coats and Brittany Kent to put Seward up 2-1. In the 4th, Reyes scored another Seward run after doubling to the right center field wall and later scoring on a wild pitch to make it 3-1 Lady Saints. Barton would get that run back in the bottom of the inning after a botched groundball with two outs to make the score 3-2 in favor of Seward. The score would remain the same into the 6th when Seward finally began to find their stroke at the plate. Leah Sitter would walk and steal second with one out and would later be able to trot around the bases ahead of Alicia Reyes who scalded a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall for her third hit and third run scored of the contest to make it 5-2 Seward. The Lady Saints werenít done though as Casey would single behind the bomb and would score on an RBI single from Brianna Baron to add an insurance run and push the lead to 6-2. Barton would score their first earned run of the game in the 7th after a leadoff double from Chelsea Bauer to make it 6-3, but would get no more as Seward clinched the Jayhawk West Conference Championship all to their selves with a double play to end the game and give themselves a 6-3 win. Seward outhit Barton 12 to 7 in the game including 3 hits apiece from Reyes and Casey at the top of the lineup. Reyes finished another monster game with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 2 RBIís while falling just a triple short of the cycle. Baron, Kent, and Lauren Barker also had multi hit games for Seward as each had 2 hits in the win. Roufosse picked up her second win in as many days and finished her Jayhawk West Conference season with 7 wins and a 0.46 ERA while striking out 61 batters and walking just 9.
With the conference wrapped up and not a worry in the world in game two of the double header, it was time for the Lady Saints to loosen up and have some fun and they did just that at the expense of the Lady Cougars in their final regular season game of the year. Tawnee Steeman took the ball for the first time in conference play for the Lady Saints in game two and was noticeably nervous in the 1st inning, allowing a run on a pair of walks and a groundout to start the game. Her offense would bounce back and pick her up in the 2nd as Sewardís first eight hitters of the inning would reach back with 6 of them scoring to put the Lady Saints up 6-1. Brianna Baron singled to lead off the inning and Lauren Barker would walk with the bases loaded to push her in and give Seward their first run. Leah Sitter would then double to the wall to score two more Seward runs, and Alicia Reyes would single to clear the bases and would later score on a Barton error to give Seward their sixth run of the inning. Barton would get a single run in the 2nd after a walk and a single but Seward would get that run back quickly in the top of the 3rd after Baron led off with her third home run of the road trip to put Seward up 7-2. Steeman would settle down and retire the Cougars in order in the 3rd and allowed the Lady Saints to tack onto their lead in the 4th with 3 runs on a 2 RBI double from Baron and a bases loaded walk to Lynda Musick to put Seward up 10-2. The Lady Saints hit parade would continue in the 5th as Shelby Casey joined the home run derby, sending a 1-1 pitch well over the left field wall to put Seward up 12-2. Steeman would do the rest as the Seward sophomore picked up three groundball outs in the bottom of the 5th to retire her 8th, 9th, and 10th straight batters and secure the 12-2 run rule win for the Lady Saints. While throwing in just her third game of the season, Steeman looked like a veteran in the circle Friday, firing a 1 hit complete game shutout while throwing just 68 pitches in the game. Brianna Baron finished her regular season on a tear, going 3 for 3 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBIís in the game while benefiting from the combo of Reyes and Casey at the top of the Lady Saints order who had 3 hits, 4 runs, and 4 RBIís in the win. Kent had 2 hits in the game and stole a base while Sitter had a hit, a run, and 2 RBIís in the game.
By winning 3 of 4 on the road trip, the Lady Saints move their overall record to 44-12 on the season and 13-3 in Jayhawk West Conference play as they captured their second straight title. Seward will now take on the winner of Friday mornings Colby/Barton game at 2:00 on Friday at Wichita State University. If the Lady Saints were to win their game on Friday they would move to the 10:00 game on Saturday morning where they would take on the winner of the Butler/Garden City matchup, or with a loss would play at 12:00 Saturday in an elimination game. The Region VI Tournament is a quick one in softball with a winner being decided in just over 30 hours from start to finish, so the Lady Saints will know by Saturday evening whether their season will continue with a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in St. George, Utah or if it will come to an end in Wichita.