Optimist Lady Indians win ASA state tourney

By The Mercury

Chelsey Henry’s acrobatic catch in right-centerfield ended a late Clay Center B’s rally, and the Manhattan Optimist Lady Indians 13-and-under softball team won the Kansas Amateur Softball Association’s 14B state tournament this past Saturday in Salina.

Trailing 8-3, Clay Center loaded the bases with two outs on Lady Indians’ starting pitcher Amber Hildebrand, who pitched six strong against the B’s lineup. Clay Center’s Sam Carson drilled a 1-0 pitch to deep right-center in what looked like extra bases.

But the speedy Henry chased the ball down, gloved it and held on for the final out, falling backwards to the ground.

The 8-3 win capped a three-game sweep to the tournament title for the Optimist Lady Indians. In the opening round, the squad downed Salina Venom 11-8 — a team that finished fourth at the ASA Northern Nationals in 2012 — highlighted by a three-run home run from Hildebrand, a triple by Kenzie Smith and a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt by Maddi Shaneyfelt.

In the semifinals, the Lady Indians took on the Salina Stealth, formerly the Pink Panthers, which defeated the Lady Indians for the USSSA 12U championship in 2011.

This time, though, the Lady Indians were the better team, coming away with a 10-2 victory in the five-inning run-ruled game

Hildebrand also hit a home run against the Stealth, while Smith and Ayanna Gamble slammed homers against Clay Center. The Lady Indians had 28 hits in the three-games, averaging 9.7 runs per game.

Hildebrand notched two pitching wins, while Hana Tamura pitched a gem against the Stealth.

It’s the second year that the Lady Indians have won an ASA championship. In 2012, the squad won the 12C title, also beating the Venom in that tournament.

Other members of the team include Haleigh Harper, Josie Hilgers, Cara Melgares and Abby Whitney, who had a highlight-reel diving catch against the Stealth.

The Lady Indians are now 32-3-1 on the season and will next play in the USSSA 14B state championship tourney this weekend at the Mid-America Sports Complex in Lenexa.

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