St. Mary’s Colgan breezed through much of the KSHSAA Class 2-1A state tournament this past weekend in Pratt.
The top-seeded Panthers blanked Salina Sacred Heart 17-0 in three innings and Jayhawk-Linn 14-0 in four innings in the first two games, and they owned a 10-1 advantage early in the championship game against Oskaloosa.
But Oskaloose mounted a comeback, and it didn’t come as a surprise to the Panthers.
“I told (our players) in the fourth inning when they had that six-run inning, it wouldn’t be a championship game if we weren’t playing a great team,” Colgan coach Annie Dellasega said. “When it was 10-1 early, we weren’t going to let down. If you make it to that point in the season, you’re going to be playing a good team that has the experience of doing well. We definitely were happy with the way we came out but not surprised whenever they started coming back and timing our pitcher.”
The Panthers survived Oskaloosa’s late barrage and won 10-7 for their second state championship in school history. The first came in 2010.
The Panthers won the CNC League title and finished with a 24-2 record, losing to 3A state champion Frontenac and to Riverton, which suffered a last-inning loss to Frontenac in the regional championship game.
Dellasega, an assistant for the Panthers in 2018, started her first season as head coach with high hopes.
“Hoping and expecting are two very different things,” Dellasega said. “I knew that we had a lot of talent and a lot of really good kids. So I was expecting for us to do well, but I think that this season was definitely beyond the expectations that I had set for us.”
The Panthers’ success started with five seniors on the infield — Ella Battitori at catcher, Kate Radell at first base, Olivia Brinds at second base, Sophia Piccini at shortstop and Delaney Cedeno at third base.
“We had a great group of five seniors who were all excellent leaders,” Dellasega said. “All were team-minded over everything else, willing to do everything they could for the team.
“Also all of those seniors were four-year starters. So we had senior leadership, the experience that goes along with it. And then add some excellent underclassmen who know the game of softball really well and walked into this, ready to be a part of the program.”
The outfield had freshmen Allie Marietta in left field and Ashley Marietta in center field along with junior Taylor Wixson in right.
“Taylor, a junior, has played three years in the outfield,” Dellasega said. “Ashley and Allie are experienced (playing travel ball). They worked hard for those positions and were humongous to our success both at bat and in the field.”
Kaitlin Crossland, a sophomore, became the Panthers’ full-time starting pitcher and posted a 16-1 record.
“She’s a competitor,” Dellasega said. “She played every single pitch and every game the way we needed her to.”
With a state title in her first season at the helm, Dellasega isn’t sure what is left for an encore. But she is sure that she has plenty of talented underclassmen in the program.
“We have a lot of good underclassmen who have filled the roles we asked them to fill this year,” Dellasega said. “Even in the dugout cheering, that was a big part of our success. It’s easy to have jealousy about not playing, but we didn’t have that. They knew in order for the team to do the best, they had to play the part they were asked to play. I’m excited for these underclassmen to get their turn. We’re going to come back and keep working hard. When we work hard, it’s going to pay for us.”
The Panthers’ junior varsity team had only one loss and three ties. Its highlight was going to Kansas City and winning a tournament by beating much-bigger schools Blue Valley, Blue Valley Northwest and Basehor-Linwood.