Versailles softball tops Osage in districts, falls to Blair Oaks in semifinals

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Versailles' Ashlynn Davidson (center) is embraced by a teammate as Analyssa Pence (left) and Lauren Garrison (right) are all smiles after the Tigers capture a district win over Osage on Wednesday, October 14, in Versailles.

It was a big step forward for the Versailles softball program. 

The Tigers, seeded third in the Class 3 District 5 softball tournament on their own diamond, met No. 6 Osage in the first round of districts Wednesday night and came away with a 9-3 win over the Indians. 

It may have just been the district opener against a team the Tigers see annually in Tri-County Conference play, but the postseason win symbolized another turning point for a program that won just a single game all season just three years ago. 

"Really proud of the girls. They've taken on a lot of challenges this year and they've succeeded every step of the way," Versailles coach Jason Ollison said. "This was one of our big goals for the year, to get a district win, and I'm just so proud of how far they've come in the last three months. It is just a testament to their hard work all season and the things they do outside of what we do here in the fall."

And Ollison was not the only one to notice the improvement, too. 

Osage coach David Flaspohler, across the way in the other dugout Wednesday night, has led his program to a few postseason wins as the Indians entered the 2020 season with four straight district championship appearances that includes a district championship back in 2017.

"Hats off to them. Coach Ollison and his staff have done a real great job of turning things around and that is a real big accomplishment to Coach (Russ) Foster as well," Flaspohler said of the Versailles program. "I know he is not here with them this year, but he has had a lot of work in that program and I am proud of those girls. They are a tough group and they deserve it."

Osage took the initial lead in this battle of Lake area teams with a pair of runs from the start in the first inning when Paige Luttrell hit an RBI triple and Carly Ward drove in a run on a groundout. However, the Tigers came right back and tied things up in the bottom half of the inning. It began with leadoff hitter Taylor Bice who reached second on an error and took third on a wild pitch before she was drove in on a groundout from Maris Ollsion. Lauren Garrison eventually tied things up with an RBI single. 

Versailles came right back in the second inning and took the lead for good on a 2-RBI double from Analyssa Pence and Kierra O'Rourke made it 5-2 after driving in a run off an error. Osage scored its final run of the night in the third on another RBI from Ward on an error. A tag at the plate on the same play prevented Osage's Paige Luttrell form becoming the fourth run of the night. 

The Tigers added some insurance with a pair of runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Joscelynn Marriott hit an RBI double in the fourth and Ollison was able to score on an error. In the seventh, O'Rourke was back with an RBI single and she later scored on a wild pitch. 

O'Rourke, Marriott and Pence had two hits each to lead a Versailles offense that finished with 10 on the night and consistently found a way to get runners on the basepaths. Bice, Ollison, Garrison and Alli Bigs each had a hit and O'Rourke and Pence both had two RBIs while Ollison, Marriott and Garrison each droe in a run.

"The bottom half of our lineup pulled us through today. They came out aggressive early in the count, which is something we've been preaching to them since the beginning," the Tiger skipper noted. "Just go up there and be aggressive early in the count, find your pitch and go hit it and they did that tonight. Just super proud of them, especially our seniors Anna Lauren and Savannah. They've been through a whole lot and for them to come out and have success tonight and be able to put some hits together and contribute in a big way to this win was special."

Reese Good got the start for Osage in the circle and she went two innings allowing five runs, three earned, on four hits while walking two. Halle Helton pitched in relief for the next 3 1/3 innings allowing four runs, three earned, on six hits while striking out and walking one batter and Skyler Luttrell did the rest walking two batters. Ward, who has been Osage's starter for most of the season inside the circle, had a lower back injury that kept her from pitching down the final stretch of the season.

"The idea was to keep them off balance. Our defense did a great job tonight and proud of our girls," Flaspohler said. "That was a lot to ask of the three we threw up there to face Maris an the onslaught of hitting they have going on, but they did their job and we got the balls we wanted. We did not make a few plays here and there, but they found some gaps which is understandable because they barrel up the ball."

Meanwhile, Osage's offense put together eight hits on the night and the Indians tried to create a spark in the seventh with the bases loaded before running out of outs. Shelby Minor and Paige Luttrell led Osage with two hits each as Liberty Gamm, Good, Ward and Danielle Hazelwood each had a hit of their own. The Indians just could not find enough gaps on the night. 

"Kind of been the story, hitting the ball hard and just not finding any holes," Flaspohler stated. "Proud of our effort and enthusiasm. Our attitude was a lot better and they rose to the occasion. That, by far, has been the funnest game we've had this year." 

Marriott certainly did not make things any easier for Osage, either, pitching a complete game for the Tigers where she struck out six batters and did not allow a single walk.

"She has improved so much over the last three years and to be in that situation, she has dreamed about that for a long, long time. Her dad (Ryan) Marriott used to coach here and it has always been the talk of winning a district tournament or winning a district game," Ollison said. "For her to be able to go out there and do that is a testament to the time she has put in."

The junior pitcher certainly was smiling after her team recorded the final out. 

"I mean, I don't remember the last time we won a district game let alone being seeded third. These are big steps," Marriott said. "We are taking really big steps here and I still have next year to play. This is exciting if we can just keep improving.

"Everybody has put in the effort, showing up to practice and we are working really hard to get to where we are now."

Osage ended its season at 5-15 and although the Indians did not get an opportunity to make a fifth straight district championship appearance, Flaspohler said this could be fuel for 2021.

"Keeping it one day at a time because nothing is always guaranteed to us so we can't take anything for granted. We need to use this as a building block for the future, remember what this feels like and how it was to play a game like this and see if we can't be on the other side of it just like we have been in the past," he stated.

Versailles went on to meet No. 2 Blair Oaks in the semifinals Thursday night and the Falcons played like a contender with a 13-0 win in five innings to bring the journey to an end for the Tigers. 

Marriott and Ashlynn Davidson had the team's only two hits on the night as the Tigers were dealt 11 strikeouts and Marriott went three innings in the circle allowing 15 hits while striking out one. Davidson pitched an inning and allowed a hit while striking out two.

The Tigers finished their season 16-11, but ending the season with 16 wins sure sounds better than finishing it with one. After Wednesday night's win, Ollison took the time to credit all those who helped make that possible. 

"There are so many people beyond just the people you see on the field that contribute to that. I'm just thankful for all of them and all those guys that put in the time and Coach Foster for the time he put in the last two years, too," the coach said. "There are so many people who contribute to these things and for a lot of schools this is not a big deal but for our program and where it has been, this is a big step in the right direction.

"We've done what we came to do this year and anything else is just a bonus."