Softball season ends at HAAC tourney

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The Baker softball team ended its season at the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament losing 12-3 to No. 8 Central Methodist at Blue Valley Recreation Complex in Overland Park.

After losing to third-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene University 1-0 in the opening round, the sixth-seeded Wildcats needed to climb out of the losers bracket to reach the finals.

Against MNU, junior Mallorie Nelson started the game and was dominant. Nelson did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and struck out 13 batters. The Wildcats only had five hits in the game, though, and did not plate any runners. After seven innings the game was still scoreless and went into extras.

The Wildcats were retired one, two, three in the top of the eighth and the Pioneers came up in the bottom half with a chance to win in walk-off fashion. Nelson gave up her second hit of the game to start the inning to MNU’s first basemen Macie Jones and the pressure was on.

Baker caught a huge break when pinch hitter Felisha Vogelaar popped her sacrifice bunt up behind home plate. Nelson then struck out the next batter and there were two outs.

Nelson walked the nine-hole Lorena Martinez and had to turn the lineup over to lead off hitter Alexis Pacheco. After a wild pitch the runners were on second and third, and Pacheco lifted a ball over the infield and brought in the game’s only run.

Sophomore Sammie Schroeder had two of Baker’s five hits on the afternoon, and the Wildcats were struck out 10 times by MNU’s starting pitcher Taylor Pearcy.

Baker’s back was to the wall after losing game one and had to beat seventh seeded Missouri Valley College to advance. Just two weeks ago Nelson threw a perfect game against the Vikings in Baldwin City and she was on the mound for Baker.

In the second inning freshman Savannah Bellem hit a two-run homer to spark Baker’s offense and get the Wildcats on the board for the first time in 16 innings. Baker led 2-0, and the offense and the long ball weren’t done yet.

In the top of the third Schroeder doubled to left field and freshman Stephanie Cardona hit the game’s second home run on the first pitch of her at bat. Nelson finally lost her no-hitter in the fourth inning and snapped a 10-inning hitless streak against Missouri Valley. In the fifth Cardona drove in her third run of the game with a double bringing in senior Peyton Weekly. Baker led 5-0 and was looking to cruise into the next round.

Freshman Teagan Louthan replaced Nelson in the bottom of the sixth and allowed two runners to reach but worked out the jam and Baker headed to the seventh. In the home half Missouri Valley had its final chance to keep the season alive. With one out Juliana Talancon tripled to right field. Elizabeth Luna brought Talancon home on a single and the lead was cut to four. Louthan got the next batter to pop out and Baker was one out away from winning.

Cardona committed an error at shortstop, allowing runners to reach first and second, and Missouri Valley made Baker pay. Carrie Hudson blasted a ball over the outfield fence for a three-run bomb and the lead was instantly cut to one. After the homer Nelson came back in for Louthan to face the final batter and Nelson struck out Lilian Andrade for the win.

Baker advanced to the next elimination round to face the regular-season champs and No. 8 Central Methodist Eagles on the same day. The Eagles ran the table in the first 18 games and found themselves in the loss column for the first time since March 21 after losing to Benedictine 3-1 earlier that afternoon. The loss snapped a 27-game winning streak.

Baker lost 12-3 to the three-time reigning HAAC champs and the Wildcats were eliminated from the tournament. The Wildcats finished the season 13-32 overall and 7-11 in the HAAC. This is the team’s second consecutive losing season, and Baker won its least amount of games in a season since 2009, when Baker won only 10 times.