NORTH NEWTON, Kan. - The hope for the postseason among the Bethel Softball program was a bit like the weather today: dim and muggy, but calm and clear. With a one game lead over Bethany, but with the Swedes holding the tie-breaker if they were to finish with the same record, Bethel needed to do work with their final home double header, against Kansas Wesleyan. Game 1 featured a pitcher's duel between Jordyn Parsons of the Coyotes, and Rylie Scudder (SO/Little Elm, Texas) for Bethel. They both were on top of their games, and wound up needing an extra inning after the game was tied 1-1. A close call at home gave the Coyotes the go-ahead run, and Bethel wound up bested 2-1. Game 2 was where KWU decided to bust open their bats, and easily handed the Threshers a 7-0 loss. As the rain came down in the second game, Bethel knew their season was wrapped up, as Bethany was able to split with Friends. A strong season nevertheless, as Bethel broke many, many records.
Scudder got called for the start again, after her complete game against Sterling on Saturday resulted in a victory. While allowing hits on occasion, she and the fielders held their composure throughout the game and made sure no runs were scored. Scudder was able to scatter six hits through the eight innings of work, and threw four strikeouts.
Parsons of KWU was holding her own as well out on the mound, also scattering six hits through eight innings.
The Coyotes were able to score one run in the top of the sixth, as the speedy centerfielder was able to translate that speed on the base paths and work her way home.
It came down to the bottom of the seventh, but once again Bethel was able to have clutch plays. Kiera Broehl (JR/Wichita) led off the inning with a single into left, and was then able to reach second off a sac bunt by Michelle Schrag (SO/Moundridge, Kan.). Kayla Sparkman (SR/Trinity, Ala.), playing at home for the final time in her career, was able to smack a single into right-center, and brought Broehl home for the game-tying score. Walks forced by Madison McDowell (SO/Basehor, Kan.) and Leisle Hoffman (SO/Wichita, Kan.) loaded the bases, but the luck ran a bit short and the game went into the 8th.
With the tie-breaker rule in effect (placing an automatic runner on 2nd for each team when they bat), the Coyotes laid down a sac bunt to get her to third base. Two batters later, another bunt was laid down. The runner headed home, got caught up a bit, and was then called safe at home on the slide, a type of call where instant replay would have definitely been handy.
Bethel couldn't make any magic happen in the eighth inning, and took the loss 2-1.
Game 2 didn't feature much in terms of offense for Bethel, and with the Coyotes being able to hit 2-run home runs on two different occasions, it ultimately spelled doom for the team. It seemed like the totally wrong way to end a season, one in which was literally the best in program history, but that's the way the cards shuffle out sometimes.
The two seniors on the team, Sparkman and Trista Rich (SR/Junction City, Kan.), came up with big plays during their final go-around on this merry-go-round. Sparkman about came up huge, even on top of the game-tying RBI she hit in Game 1. In the bottom of the fifth in the same game, she sent a shot which looked like it'd be traveling to sweet home Alabama (despite the field being pointed the wrong way), but was robbed right at the fence.
She and Rich also came up big in the field. Rich was able to catch a couple fly's into center field, including doing one of her classic sliding catches in Game 2.
Congratulations to the softball team on again, the greatest season up to this point in program history (17-22, 8-14). Records were made, milestones achieved, and with the core of this team being underclassmen, look for Bethel to continue turning heads next season.