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Optimist Lasers take fifth at state

By The Mercury

The Manhattan Optimist Lasers 18-and-under softball team compiled a 4-2 record this past weekend at the USSSA state championships in Kansas City to take fifth place out of 18 teams.

On Friday evening, the Lasers fell 4-2 in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament against the Clay Center B’s — the eventual tourney champs. Bre Foster and Paige Divine had the only hits for the Lasers, while Blair Campbell pitched a strong game, giving up just four hits and one earned run.

The Lasers got back on the winning track Saturday with an extra-inning victory over the Paola Explosion II. Kayla Lough drove in the only Lasers’ run in regulation, but the team erupted for eight runs in the first extra inning.

Kylie Smith, Aubrey Jung, Allie Massanet and Megan Thompson banged out two hits apiece to back the strong pitching of Tyler Hoyt and Jung for a 9-2 win. Jung also pitched the next contest, allowing only two hits to the KC Vandals, but the Lasers entered the final frame down 2-0. Divine opened the inning with a single, and after a groundout, Bri Womack singled to get the tying run on base.

Hoyt then singled to cut the margin to 2-1, but a strikeout brought the Lasers down to their last out. Pinch hitter Suzanna Gevock then lined a 1-2 pitch to right center to bring home the tying and winning runs and secure a 3-2 victory.

The Lasers squared off on Sunday morning against the Lawrence Phenix 94. Smith paced the offense with two hits, while Campbell added a double and Massanet blasted a triple.Jung went the distance in the circle for the Lasers, allowing no earned runs.

With the score tied at the end of regulation, the teams traded runs in the first extra inning, and then Jung helped her own cause by plating the winning run with a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt for the 5-4 victory.

The next game was a seesaw contest with the Grainfield Blue Aces. Campbell pitched the whole game, yielding just one earned run. Trailing by one run going into the bottom half of the final inning, Divine led off by just missing a tying home run with a bomb off the top of the center-field fence for her second hit of the game.

Two outs later, Womack smacked her second hit of the contest, a double to left field to tie the game. Hoyt followed with a walk-off single for the 8-7 win. The Lasers were then eliminated by the Lawrence Phenix-Fyler, 5-4, in a hard-fought contest.

Jung surrendered just three hits and no earned runs in going the distance for the Lasers. Foster, Smith, Womack and Campbell had a pair of hits apiece. A last-inning rally fell just short when Mariah Stringfield’s long fly to left with two runners aboard was caught for the final out.

The Lasers’ season record now stands at 18-14. The Lasers will next be in action this weekend at the ASA Heartland World Series in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

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