By Chad Frey
This was the first time Conway Springs played in Babe Ruth softball leagues — but the state title the team won Sunday night at Athletic Park was about three years in the making.
"I have kept this team together for three or four years," said coach Frank Aiku. "I hope there is more coming in the future."
Conway Springs celebrated a 16-4 victory in the final over Sumner County rival Wellington. The game was cut short by run rule after the top of the fifth inning.
The seeds of the state title run were sewn about three years ago — when Aiku told a group of softball players in Conway Springs if they stuck together, they would make a good softball team.
"I have told all the girls that they did not want to have to play in Wichita leagues," he said. "I told them I would coach them as a team, but not as individuals. I think that kept them playing for Conway."
Bre Aiku led the Cardinals in the final — not only pitching four innings and giving up just three hits, but also finishing the night a perfect three-for-three at the plate with a double, five runs-batted-in and three runs scored to help her own cause on the mound.
"She told the team coming into this tournament that everyone needed to contribute," Frank Aiku said. "And everyone did. One person might be down one game and be up a second game. Everyone did their job."
In addition to her strong showing at the plate, the Cardinals also picked up a two hit, two RBI effort from Carolyn Mercer and a two hit effort from Emma Barkley. Every starter on the team scored at least one run.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, batting around the batting order. The team collected six runs on four hits — making use of timely walks and a Wellington error to take a commanding lead.
Wellington was able to get one run back in the second inning, but Conway Springs was able to extend the lead in the third inning before breaking the game open in the fourth. In the fourth inning the Cardinals sent 10 batter to the plate, pushing across seven runs on four hits to all but end the game. Wellington was not able to mount enough of a comeback in the fifth inning to stave off the mercy rule.
With the win Conway Springs qualified for the Babe Ruth regional tournament in Booneville, Mo.
Conway Springs 16, Wellington 4
W 0 1 0 2 1 4 5 0
CS 6 0 3 7 X 16 10 1
2B — CS: Barkley, Aiku. 3B — W: Willis.
W: Aiku 4IP 3H 3R 3ER 2BB 2K
L: Hain 2IP 6H 9R 7ER 2BB 3K.