Blue Devils advance to playoffs in Topeka for the first time since 2019

Blue Devils advance to playoffs in Topeka for the first time since 2019

For the first time since 2010, Kansas City Kansas Community College has advanced to the NJCAA Region VI semifinal playoffs in Topeka.

            A come-from-behind 6-4 win and a 9-0 shutout in a sweep of Cloud County in first round playoff action Saturday propelled the No. 7 seeded Blue Devils (36-18) into the four-team District D regional against No. 2 Hesston (34-11) next Saturday. The game will be played at 10 a.m. on the South Field at Topeka's Hummer Park.

            A double elimination tournament, a win would send the Blue Devils against the Johnson County-Murray State winner at 2 p.m.; a loss and KCKCC would meet the JCCC-Murray State loser, also at 2 p.m.

            Shortstop Hannah Redick provided the heroics in the 6-4 opener; Mackenzie Pinkerton hurled a two-hit pitching gem in the 9-0 nightcap played before the biggest crowd of the season as fans lined the right field line and watched from behind the left field fence.

            Trailing 4-2, the Blue Devils rallied with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win the first game. Brittney Beck singled with one out and scored all the way from first on Jennica Messer's single to right and a throwing error. Britney Smith beat out a bunt for a hit and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch before Redick delivered the game's biggest blow – a ringing double to right-center to score the tying and lead runs. Pinkerton then added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly.

            "Hannah has been a good hitter all season; a nominee for freshman of the year," said KCKCC Coach Lana Ross. "She's been a great leadoff for us."

            With the lead, freshman Shay Grosstephan shut the Thunderbirds down in the seventh aided by a double play started by Smith at second, who tagged a runner and threw to first. Grosstephan allowed six hits, walking two and striking out two. Cloud took a 1-0 lead in the first on a pair of two-out doubles but Grosstephan retired 12 of the next 14 hitters before the T-Birds took advantage of a two-out error to score three runs in the fifth and go ahead 4-2.

            Grosstephan helped her own cause in the first inning with a run-scoring double after a Devin Purcell single and a Pinkerton single and Smith two-out double gave KCKCC a 2-1 lead in the fourth.

            Pinkerton faced only 17 hitters in her 2-hit gem in the 5-inning second game. "Both pitchers pitched well and we did a good job of coming from behind, something we've done all season and worked on in practice this week," said Ross. "Our base-running was also good, something we worked on."
            Sophomore Kaylee Arnzen's 10th home run, a 3-run no doubter to left, was the final touch in the 5-inning nightcap. KCKCC took a 2-0 lead in the first on singles by Redick, Purcell and Grosstephan and a ground ball and added two in the third on Pinkerton's 2-run double following singles by Arnzen and Alexis Rymer.

            Singles by Beck and Smith ignited a 5-run fourth with Beck scoring on Smith's single and Redick's squeeze bunt scoring Smith. After a double by Purcell and single by Grosstephan, Arnzen launched her home run to left.