By TYLER HENRY
Salina Post contributor
The still undefeated Ell-Saline softball team will take their 23-0 record on the road to the state tournament on Thursday for a quarterfinal clash with St. Mary’s Colgan.
The Lady Cardinals rolled through regionals defeating Inman, Republic County, and Sacred Heart by a combined 40 runs to punch their ticket to this year’s state tournament.
This year’s 1-2A tournament features a slew of heavy hitters, and Ell-Saline isn’t the only team coming in without a loss in their ledger.
“This state bracket has another undefeated team in Troy that will be tough to get through,” Cardinals head coach Kris Bell said. “Our first-round opponent won it all in 2019 and last year. They’ve lost some players but they’re still strong and that’s our focus right now.”
The defending champion Panthers will be a tough out even as the 8-seed, after eliminating the 1-2 and 4 seeds at their regional in Arma Northeast, Uniontown, and Oswego.
“They have a really good lineup and we’re going to see some really good hitters today,” Bell said. “Offensively we need to stay patient at the plate and not help pitchers by chasing balls.”
For the 19th time, this season Raleigh Kramer will take the circle for the Lady Cards. The senior star has been the definition of an ace this season with an 18-0 record, a 1.5 ERA, and 90 strikeouts to just 28 walks.
“Raleigh pitched the best game of her season in the finals against Sacred Heart to win our regional,” Bell said. “She does really well when her defense stays up behind her and that’s big for her confidence on the mound.”
Defensively, Ell-Saline will shake things up on the infield going back to the look that won them their regional final while the lineup will carry over the slow and steady philosophy that has the team without a loss and just three wins away from a title.
“These girls aren’t up at the plate to kill it,” Bell said. “They’re just up to make solid contact and the singles and doubles we’ve gotten as a result of that approach have been a big key for us. If we keep playing the way we have this season we definitely feel like we could win a state championship this year.”
First pitch between the Cardinals and Panthers is set for 5:00 at Salina South High School with the winner advancing to take on 21-2 Spearville or 20-2 Eskridge in the semis on Friday.