Tigers clinch conference softball title, earn top seed at District B Tournament


By RAMA PEROO/Cowley College

The No. 16-ranked Cowley College softball team capped a dominant conference season with a sweep of Labette Community College on Friday at Ed Hargrove Field in Arkansas City.

With wins of 10-0 and 7-3, the Lady Tigers finished 21-1 in the Jayhawk Conference and shared the conference title with Johnson County. The conference title is Cowley’s first since 2018.

“I am very proud of our players and happy for them,” Cowley head coach Jenny Hoyt said. “Being conference champions was one of the team’s goals this season, and with our conference being as tough as it is, to make it out at the top is very rewarding for them.”

Cowley won the tie-breaker for the top seed at the District B Tournament and will play Saturday and Sunday in Topeka.

Saige Smith started on the mound for Cowley in the opener, allowing only one baserunner in her four innings pitched. Smith allowed one hit while striking out six as she improved her record to 22-5 on the season.

Taylor Mercer pitched a scoreless fifth inning to finish off the 10-0 victory.

Lexi Miller made the start for Labette and allowed a three-run homer to McKinzi Sowles in the bottom of the first inning as Cowley jumped out to the early lead. The Lady Tigers would add to its lead by scoring six runs on seven hits in the bottom of the second inning. A two-run homer by sophomore Maci Cole highlighted the inning.

Kyla Bonnarens added a run-scoring single in the third inning as Cowley run-ruled Labette 10-0 in five innings. Sophomore catcher Aaliyah Ahmed went 3-for-3 to lead the Lady Tigers’ 12-hit attack.

Cole would add her 21st home run of the season, a two-run shot, to increase Cowley’s lead to 4-0 in the second inning of game two.

Freshman Jaala Nowlin started game two for the Lady Tigers and allowed only four hits and two earned runs in six innings pitched as she left the game with Cowley leading 7-3.

Ellie Kuntz relieved Nowlin on the mound and did not retire any of the three batters she faced as she was relieved by Smith with the bases loaded and nobody out. With the tying run at the plate, Smith got a force out at home and struck out a pair of batters to preserve the win.

Cole went 3-for-3 and homered twice more in the nightcap as she now has 23 home runs on the season, while Sowles homered for the second time in the doubleheader.

“I thought we put the ball hard in play all day, and Maci and McKinzi both had a great day hitting,” Hoyt said.

Cowley will attempt to qualify for the national tournament when they participate in the District B Tournament. The Lady Tigers will open play on Saturday at 10 a.m. against No. 8-seed Independence at the Lake Shawnee Softball Complex in Topeka. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Neosho County (26-22) vs. Fort Scott (29-16) contest with a chance to advance to Sunday’s championship round.

The championship game will be played Sunday at noon.

“We need to take it one game at a time,” Hoyt said. “All teams will be tough and put up a good battle, so we must play with an intent and stay focused in that moment.”

Score by inning:

Game one R H E

Labette 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 2 1

Cowley 3 6 1 0 x – 10 12 0

Game two R H E

Labette 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 – 3 7 0

Cowley 1 3 1 0 1 1 x – 7 10 2