A historic win from A(ddison) to (Kin)zie: Caston beats Southwood for first softball sectional title
Mollenkopf: 3-3, 2 RBIs at the plate, 2-hitter, 13 Ks in the circle
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Caston softball team beat Southwood 4-1 to win the Class 1A, Sectional 52 title at North Miami Thursday. The sectional title is the first in school history. Caston improved to 19-4 and will next play either Elkhart Christian or Fremont on the road in a regional Tuesday.
DENVER — The Caston softball team was making some noise against Southwood in the Class 1A, Sectional 52 final at North Miami Thursday.
After second baseman Addison Zimpleman caught the final out on a soft liner off the bat of Southwood’s Natalie Sutphin, the Lady Comets celebrated on the pitching rubber, and the noise was a mixture of giddy shrieking, tears and coughing up dust after rolling around for a moment on the infield dirt.
It ended a lifetime of waiting. Actually, it ended more than a lifetime of waiting. This had never happened before.
The Lady Comets separated themselves from their past against Southwood, winning 4-1 Thursday to take the Class 1A, Sectional 52 title and win their first sectional title in school history.
“I tried to not let that weigh on them,” Caston coach Jon Burks said. “You know what I’m saying? Let’s not worry about what’s going on. Let’s focus and get this done first and then we’ll worry about it. It’s big for the community. … It’s big for them, and I’m so proud of them.”
Their accomplishment might be even more momentous than that: Prior to Thursday, Caston had not won a sectional title in any girls team sport since the cross-country team won a sectional in 1990.
The No. 7 Lady Comets will play their regional game on the road Tuesday against either Elkhart Christian or Fremont. Elkhart Christian will play Fremont at Lakewood Park at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Sectional 51 final.
“I was kinda like, ‘This ball’s coming to me,’” Zimpleman said of the final out. “And to make the play, and … when I make this out, I’m going to go see my teammates. I was so excited, yet didn't know what to feel because I’ve never been in one of these moments, so it’s just like a lot of emotions attack you all at once, and it’s like you don’t know which one you really feel.”
After the mob scene behind the rubber, seniors Kinzie Mollenkopf and Bailey Harness accepted the sectional trophy from North Miami athletic director Adam Miller and celebrated with their teammates with the trophy.
They then ran toward the bleachers along the third baseline and presented their trophy to their fans before posing for photos with the trophy.
Players then went over to individually hug Burks one by one.
“You girls did it,” Burks said repeatedly after each hug. “All I did was help.”
Harness and Mollenkopf are the two seniors who also play volleyball and on the conference champion girls basketball team at Caston.
“I know Kinzie and I have been working so hard to try and win one for so many years, and I’m just so happy I got a chance to do it with this team,” Harness said.
Mollenkopf seemingly carried the team for seven innings before she carried the trophy afterwards.
She had more hits at the plate (three) than she allowed in the circle (two). She walked none and struck out 13.
“She stole the show,” Burks said of Mollenkopf. “She had two of the four RBIs, 13 strikeouts, smoking the ball into the dead wind. She’s been doing it all year for us, and I can’t be more proud of her.”
She retired the final 11 batters, striking out Grace Lambert after a protracted battle in which Lambert had worked an 0-2 count to 3-2. Then she fanned Izzy Ashba for the third time. Sutphin then swung at the first pitch, and Zimpleman was right there.
“It feels really, really good, and this team deserves it,” Mollenkopf said. “And it’s just great that we get to keep playing and just keep going. It’s just amazing.”
Caston scored twice in the bottom of the first off Sutphin, Southwood’s star freshman pitcher who outdueled North Miami’s Lauren Duncan in the quarterfinals on Monday, and never trailed.
Southwood committed two errors on one play in the first inning, and it led to two unearned runs. Those were the only two errors for either side, but with Mollenkopf pitching, it was already too late.
The errors occurred with Zimpleman on second and Mollenkopf on first and Kylee Logan at the plate. Her grounder to shortstop was booted for an error. The ball bounded a few feet behind the shortstop with Zimpleman moving to third and Mollenkopf to second.
The shortstop then wheeled and threw home even though Zimpleman and Mollenkopf had stopped, and when that throw was wild, Zimpleman hustled home and beat the throw at the plate to make it 1-0 with Mollenkopf moving to third and Logan to second.
Alexa Finke’s squeeze bunt try turned into a yard sale after a tornado. Sutphin fielded the bunt and flipped the ball home, Mollenkopf decided to stay at third and Logan nearly ran past Mollenkopf before being thrown out trying to retreat to second.
Annie Harsh then sent a fly to shallow right that the wind pushed away from the right fielder and to the ground for a two-out RBI single to score Mollenkopf.
More hustle factored into Caston’s third run in the second. Macee Hinderlider was hit by a pitch with one out. Zimpleman then hit a grounder to third, but Katelyn Ranck’s throw to second was too late in an attempt to force Hinderlider. Isabel Scales then walked to load the bases.
Mollenkopf’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
“It was big-time,” Burks said of the early lead. “That was the biggest thing right off the bat out of the door. I wanted to score immediately off them. I thought if we did that, that would just keep the train rolling. When Kinzie shut them down in the first inning, I was like, ‘Greg (assistant coach Greg Zimpleman), she’s looking pretty smooth, you know.’ It was just her show from there.”
Meanwhile, Mollenkopf struck out the first six batters and retired the first 10.
Rowan Goodpasture showed good speed when she reached on a one-out infield single in the fourth. Goodpasture then stole second and scored from there on Grace Lambert’s well-placed bunt single on the right side that rolled in between Mollenkopf and Zimpleman.
Lambert then stole second but was stranded when Mollenkopf struck out Ashba and got Sutphin on a grounder to Scales at short.
Caston got the run back in the bottom half to make it 4-1, all after the first two batters were retired.
Scales reached on an infield single with Lili Combs fielding Scales’ grounder up the middle but having no play at first. Scales then stole second and scored when Mollenkopf lined an RBI double over left fielder Meredith Norman’s head.
Southwood hit the ball out of the infield for the first time when Carley Whitesel flew out to Bailey Harness in center field to lead off the sixth. Rylee Thomas then flew out to Alexa Finke in right.
Mollenkopf would add another double to the gap in the sixth. Her two doubles were the only extra-base hits for either team.
Then came the top of the seventh, where Southwood went down quietly and Caston made some historic noise. The win was especially noteworthy after they could not hold on to a 3-0 lead and lost 5-3 to North Miami in last year’s sectional final.
“Unreal,” Scales said. “Amazing. We worked so hard. We got punched in the face so many times. We’ve gotten to this, and then we just haven’t gotten over that hump. Tonight we just made history for our school. This has never been done before. This is really big.”
Caston 4, Southwood 1
Southwood 000 100 0 – 1 2 2
Caston 210 100 X – 4 8 0
WP – Kinzie Mollenkopf (7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 13 K)
LP – Natalie Sutphin (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 2 K)
2B – Kinzie Mollenkopf 2 (CAS)
Caston seniors Kinzie Mollenkopf, left, and Bailey Harness
accept the sectional championship trophy from North Miami
athletic director Adam Miller following a 4-1 win over
Southwood in the Class 1A, Sectional 52 final Thursday.