Raegan Pirtle's no-hitter leads Bluestem in run-rule win in regional
LEON, Kansas—For Bluestem coach Michelle Womacks, the battle was won, but the war had yet to be decided Monday night.
And that was why, after putting the finishing touches on a 13-0 victory over Southern Lyon County, the top-seeded and host Lions were back on the softball field, and Womacks was feeding softballs into a pitching machine.
Perhaps it was the six hits in four innings – Bluestem (18-3) coaxed 12 walks from Southern Lyon (1-20) and was hit three times – that warranted the extra batting practice.
“We’ve got to hit better,” Womacks said. “We’ll have our hands full (Tuesday); everybody will have their hands full (Tuesday). You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game.”
One thing is certain: the Lions’ next opponent, fourth-seeded Chase County – would provide more of a challenge in Tuesday’s semifinals. The teams are scheduled to meet – weather permitting – at 2 p.m. That slate is still uncertain, as a consistent rain is in Tuesday’s forecast.
The Bulldogs (13-7) dispatched fifth-seeded Flinthills (6-13) by a 12-0 score and took in Bluestem’s first-round game.
Bluestem gave them an eyeful in methodically advancing.
For starters, there was junior Delaney Blakesley, who had three hits in the game – including her eighth home run of the season – and drove in five runs.
Blakesley said any success she had can be traced to Womacks’ coaching.
“She’s the one that puts in all the effort, gets my mechanics right,” Blakesley said.
Looking ahead, Blakesley said that Chase County will be a stiff challenge.
“They’re definitely going to be a tougher team than we’ve faced all season,” she said. “I think we can go out and compete with them and come out on top.”
Even though she has the huge responsibility of handling the pitching duties, Blakesley said she’s up to the task.
“I’m ready to take it on and handle it (and) fight for my team,” Blakesley said.
Sophomore Raegan Pirtle took a perfect game into the fifth and final inning, but an error allowed Southern Lyon’s Emma Cole to reach first base. But Lions shortstop Allie Wesley atoned by stabbing a line drive off the bat of Taylor Cole to bring a quick end to the game.
“She kind of redeemed herself,” Womacks said.
Bluestem scored in each of the four innings in which it batted. The Lions scored four runs in the first on just one hit, aided by a Southern Lyon error and three walks.
The Lions sent 12 hitters to the plate in the second inning, scoring six times on just three hits, including Blakesley’s homer – a three-run, inside-the-park shot.
“When she swings correctly, she has quite a bit of power,” Womacks said. “That is her eighth home run of the season. She holds the school record.”
Not all of them have been like Monday’s inside-the-park job, Womacks said.
“(She has also hit some at) other places where we’ve played away and they have a normal fence. She’s actually hit one out of this park, which is 250 (feet).”
And there’s one more year for her on the Lions varsity.
“She’s a really good athlete; she works really hard on her craft,” Womacks said.
Bluestem scored three more times before the inning ended, and the rout was on.
Blakesley – who is scheduled to be Bluestem’s starting pitchers in the semifinal game, added two singles and was only retired on a fly to right field in the first inning.
Pirtle issued no walks in four innings and struck out nine, including striking out the side in the second inning.
“My pitcher threw well,” Womacks said. “She threw strikes for us (Monday night); she didn’t walk anybody; she didn’t hit anybody, had one error away from a perfect game.
“That’s the best game she’s had this year.”
When she wasn’t striking out her opponents, her teammates were making sparkling plays, such as senior Abby Hill’s firing to first to beat Taylor Hall leading off the third.
After some pregame jitters, Pirtle said it was easy to get into a rhythm.
“I was really nervous at first, but once I saw the first batter, I started to chill out,” Pirtle said. “Once I started getting on a roll, it just feels real natural, and it’s my ‘happy place.’”
Bluestem 13, Southern Lyon County 0
Southern Lyon County 000 00 – 0 0 1
Bluestem 461 2x – 13 6 1
W – Pirtle. L – E. Cole. HR – Bluestem, Blakesley (inside the park).