SILVER LAKE -- For the second straight year, Rossville’s softball team will be dancing in the Class 3A state tournament after a 4-0 regional semifinal victory over Sabetha and a 4-1 championship win against Highway 24 foe Silver Lake on Thursday afternoon at Silver Lake.

Rossvillesoftballjube1Rossville softball celebrates its Class 3A regional championhip after Thursday's 4-1 win over Silver Lake. [Photo by Isaac Deer/TSN]

Rossvillesotballjube2Rossville's softball team celebrates after earning a return trip to the Class 3A state tournament. [Photo by Isaac Deer/TSN]

The Bulldawgs knew they had an uphill battle on Thursday, but they also knew that they were one of the best teams in Class 3A for a reason. Class 3A No. 1-ranked Silver Lake took a doubleheader sweep against Rossville during the regular season on the same field they played in the regional championship.

Facing the same team twice is hard, but going toe-to-toe with a rival school for a third time is daunting. In this case, Silver Lake couldn’t overcome Rossville’s sudden surge of energy going into the regional championship game.

“It feels very sweet to come back and get them,” Rossville coach John Nitsch said. “We’re still not hitting the ball that we’re capable of hitting, but the pitching and defense was solid and kept us in it. The defense and pitching are good enough to really keep us in any game. Today, we were good enough to get by.”

Rossville catcher Hailey Horton agreed with Nitsch’s statement on the joyous feeling of avenging their losses against its deepest foe.

“It feels amazing getting the win this time after those two losses earlier this year,” Horton said. “Beating (Silver Lake) in regionals to go to state is just amazing. We had the energy to start out the game because this game meant a lot to us. We knew we could do it, and we believed in each other. We really wanted to beat them.”

Immediately after the game, as the team was celebrating, Nitsch looked at his team as they huddled and said, ‘This is not our last game and the job isn’t done yet.’ The group acknowledged that right away.

“That’s our message from here on out,” Nitsch said. “We just punched our ticket, but the job isn’t done yet.”

Rossville’s pitchers pulled off an audacious set of performances. In the regional semifinal against Sabetha, junior pitcher Katie Spielman had to be pulled due to dehydration in the heat in the second inning. Senior Brinley Dyche had to step in and pitch five innings in the first game, despite being the starter in Game 2.

“It was nice for Katie to be so welcoming and letting me come pitch for her,” Dyche said. “For her to start out that first game very strong and her to welcome me the way that she did was encouraging. It was a special moment to get that win earlier.

“We seem not to play well on this field. Of course, regionals are here and against somebody as tough as Silver Lake wasn’t easy. It’s very different knowing that each game could be my last. So that is hard.”

Dyche pitched the combined shutout with Spielman against Sabetha.

Dyche started in the circle in Game 2, tossing nearly three innings. Dyche allowed one hit with no runs while striking out a pair of batters.

Rossville relied on Spielman for the remainder of the contest. With the starter feeling much better after a stressful regional semifinal, she would deliver in the second contest, throwing four innings, allowing three hits, an earned run, three walks, two strikeouts and would get the win to send Rossville to the state tournament.

“It was a bit of dehydration and a bit of a panic attack,” Spielman said. “I had too many Red Bulls today to kind of hype myself up, and it did not end the way I wanted it to. I started out today really nervous and knew later that I needed to kick it into high gear. We lost to (Silver Lake) twice already, but this is the one we wanted more than anything. All of that, put together, made me realize I needed to do my best.

“I can’t believe that feeling I had when I realized that we were going to state. I don’t know how to explain that feeling, but it was awesome.”

EmmaMitchellRossvillessoftballRossville junior Emma Mitchell sparked the Bulldawg offense in Thursday's 4-1 regional win over rival Silver Lake. [Photo by Isaac Deer/TSN]

Rossville junior Emma Mitchell provided a boost at the plate for the Bulldawgs, who were full of energy after their 4-0 shutout win over Sabetha, wanting more.

Mitchell drove in the first run of the regional championship against Silver Lake’s imposing defense, giving the Bulldawgs an early 1-0 edge in the top of the first inning.

The next time Mitchell was at the plate, she capitalized again, getting hold of another ball and placing it in the outfield bringing in another run to give Rossville a 2-0 advantage in the top of the third.

A miscue from Silver Lake allowed Mitchell to break free and make it home. Mitchell contributed on all three runs for Rossville before one more unearned run came home to give the Bulldawgs a 4-0 cushion in the top of the third.

“I was feeling really good today,” Mitchell said. “Before the game, we were pumped up and excited about playing Silver Lake. We felt really good about this game. I also think that us playing back-to-back games helped us. It felt good having that energy being brought over to that next game.”

The battle of the arms would carry the contest the rest of the way. Rossville’s Dyche and Spielman and Silver Lake’s Avery Wende and Kendra Cook would pitch lights out the remainder of the way.

Silver Lake collected a much-needed spark from junior first baseman Makenzie McDaniel in the bottom of the fifth inning. Like the Jefferson West regional semifinal game, McDaniel hit her second home run of the afternoon off of Spielman to trim the deficit to 4-1.

“Our defense is always good and will keep us in games,” Mitchell said. “We need to clean up our offense a bit more and not rely on the defense as much. At state, we need to get more runs up on the board earlier.”

“We have been working on hitting a lot lately, but it can improve,” Horton said. “Our chemistry and defense right now is good. We bond together really well, so I think that helps us keep our energy up when we need it.”

Silver Lake hit a handful of hard-contact balls in play after McDaniel’s moonshot, but those hits found Rossville’s gloves.

In the end, Silver Lake couldn’t rally against Rossville, and the Bulldawgs emerged victorious with a 4-1 win to advance to the 3A state tournament.

“We will come together as a team with the goal that we have next week,” Spielman said. “We started out the year slower than we wanted. We wanted to peak at the right time towards the end of the year, and I think we have peaked.”

The Class 3A state tournament will occur at Manhattan’s Twin Oaks Complex next Thursday and Friday.

“We have a bad taste in our mouth from last year, and we want to go finish the job,” Nitsch said.



Rossville (16-4) 103 000 0 – 4 8 0

Silver Lake (19-3) – 000 010 0 – 1 4 2

W – Spielman. L – Wende. HR – Silver Lake: McDaniel.

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