KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It took a seventh-inning, two-out hit from one of the conference's best players placed just out of the reach of a diving defender to do it, but Bethany (25-25, 19-5 KCAC) got that decisive hit at the last moment to uproot Avila (20-20, 14-10 KCAC) 2-1 at The Z on Friday afternoon.
After rain postponed the second game of the planned doubleheader between the two squads earlier this month, the Eagles and Swedes were able to work out a makeup game more than three weeks later on the final day of the KCAC regular season.
With a ton at stake for both teams, but especially for the visitors, it was the home team that struck first. Chelsea Kurtz singled and stole second, and Brooke Day followed with a single of her own to put runners on the corners. Avila has been one of the best base stealing teams in the NAIA this season, and flashed that ability early: Day nabbed second and Kurtz tried to take home, and through the throw got there in time, the Bethany catcher was called for obstruction, allowing Kurtz to cross home and put the Eagles ahead 1-0.
From there, neither offense was able to strike, though both threatened throughout the afternoon. Morgan Senevey started and was solid through two for the Eagles, but Madison McKinney entered with two runners on in the third and struck out top Bethany hitter Ciera Flores to escape the jam.
The Eagles then mounted their strongest rally of the day, loading the bases in the fourth when Sydney Gearhart was hit by a pitch, Hayley Kerley got on via an error, and Kennedee Meier singled, but Samantha Quezada and the Swede defense got two ground balls to get out of the inning. The Swedes then loaded the bases themselves through two hits and a walk, but McKinney got Quezada to pop out to keep Avila ahead 1-0.
Finally, at the last possible minute, Bethany found its breakthrough. Tori Quintana doubled and Allison Rosa singled, setting the table for the top of the Swede order. McKinney locked in, getting Kayla Eggly to pop out and Melinda Cratty to line out back to the circle. But then Flores, a probable First Team all-conference player, worked a count and flared a shot to shallow center, placing it right in front of a diving Kurtz, allowing both runners to score and out Bethany in front.
McKinney struck out Morgan Russell to retire the side in the top of the seventh, but Quezada was able to retire the Eagles in order in the bottom, lifting Bethany to a 2-1 victory.
Even with the loss, Avila has locked up the #6-seed in the KCAC Tournament in Great Bend, Kansas next week. A win for the Eagles would've meant they would have faced the Swedes again in the first round; instead, Avila will play Friends in round one. Bethany, meanwhile, clinched the second seed in the tournament, a position that could get them an auto bid into the NAIA field later in May.
The Eagles will begin their KCAC Tournament run on Wednesday, May 5, in Great Bend. Stay tuned to avilaathletics.com and Avila Athletics on social media for updates on Avila softball's postseason matchups and schedules.