By Rick Peterson
WICHITA -- No. 8 seed Shawnee Heights dug itself a 2-0 hole in the bottom of the third inning against No. 1 seed Bishop Carroll in Thursday's Class 5A state softball tournament at Wilkins Stadium.
But just as quickly as they fell behind, the 16-7 T-Birds answered with a clutch three-run rally in their next at bat to take the lead and rode a two-hit pitching gem from sophomore left-hander Grace Proctor the rest of the way en route a 4-2 upset over Bishop Carroll, which suffered only its second loss in 23 games on the year.
"I think we did a great job of answering back,'' Shawnee Heights coach Tara Griffith said. "They scored and then we answered right back and I'm really proud of that because that's something we've worked on all year long.
"We only have two girls that have ever been to a state tournament before, maybe three with golf, so this is a very good experience for them and for them to come out like they did, I'm just so proud of them.''
Bishop Carroll scored its only two runs of the game in the third when junior Anistyn Marcotte was hit by a pitch and came home on two-out inside-the-park home run from senior Kory Schoenfeld.
Proctor got out of the innning with a strikeout, one of her eight in the game, and then Shawnee Heights went to work in the top of the fourth to take the lead to stay.
Juniors Alaryce Millard and Karlyn Bowman came up with big RBI doubles for Shawnee Heights, which also took advantage of two Bishop Carroll errors.
Sophomore Taylor Brees, who singled, junior Audrey Schulte, who reached on an error, and Millard all scored for the T-Birds.
"As soon as we answered back, right after they scored those runs, right when we answered back I knew that we were going to do good,'' Proctor said. "We had it.''
Carroll got its second hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth, but only had one baserunner the rest of the way as Proctor took control.
Proctor struck out the side in the fifth and ended a one-two-three inning in the sixth with another strikeout before Shawnee Heights added an insurance run in the top of the seventh.
Brees and Schulte stroked back-to-back two-out singles and Brees scored Heights' final run as the T-Birds capitalized on three Eagle errors in the inning.
Proctor and the T-Bird defense then did their job to close out the win, recording three straight popouts in a one-two-three inning.
With the victory Shawnee Heights advanced to Friday's 11 a.m. semifinal to face the winner of the first-round game between No. 4 seed Goddard Eisenhower and Spring Hill.
On the other side of the bracket, Heights' United Kansas Conference rival, No. 2 seed Basehor-Linwood, played Salina South and No. 3 Valley Center played Pittsburg in Thursday's final two first-round games. The winner of those two games will play the 1 p.m. semifinal on Friday.
Griffith said she felt like a tough regular-season schedule, including a pair of losses to Basehor-Linwood, helped the T-Birds get ready for the challenge of the state tournament.
"That's what we've said all season,'' Griffith said. "We play a hard schedule so we can hopefully prepare for moments like this and they really stepped up today.''
Proctor agreed with Griffith that Heights' schedule paid off Thursday.
"It really helped prepare us for these big games right here and to be able to pull through today, it worked,'' Proctor said.
The tournament champioship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday.
SHAWNEE HEIGHTS 4, BISHOP CARROLL 2
Shawnee Heights(16-7) 000 300 1 -- 4 7 0
Bishop Caroll (21-1) 002 000 0 -- 2 2 5
Proctor and and Habig. Orth, Pfannenstiel (6) and Jones. W -- Proctor. L -- Orth. 2B -- Shawnee Heights: Adams, Bowman. HR -- Bishop Carroll: Schoenfeld.