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They did it for Delaney: Manhattan Tigers persevere through death of teammate to win state championship

“At the beginning of the year we sat down and said that we were going to play for Delaney all year and we were going to win a state championship,” says head coach Dennis Elgas.
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Posted at 7:12 PM, May 29, 2024

MANHATTAN — Before their celebratory ride around Manhattan, the Lady Tigers softball team began their season reeling from the loss of their teammate Delaney Doherty after she was killed in a head-on crash last August.

“The two words that have been used to describe them are kind of magical and miracle, you know? I mean, no one ever would have thought that this is how our season would have ended,” says senior 3rd base, Paige Ballantyne. “We thought about Delaney every game, every day.”

First-year Head Coach Dennis Elgas wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing was for sure—this team was going to play and live like D.

Watch previous coverage: Manhattan Tigers 'do it for Delaney,' rally for first title

State B/C softball: Manhattan Tigers 'do it for Delaney,' rally for first title

“At the beginning of the year we sat down and said that we were going to play for Delaney all year and we were going to win a state championship,” says Elgas.

After a 12-0 shutout loss against Shepherd High School on the first day of the state tournament, the miracle and the magic showed.

“After we lost on Friday, we kind of got really motivated to like, okay, we're going to make it to Saturday and we're going to make some noise,” says senior pitcher Emma Kabalin.

The first day's loss was their motivation, going on to win five games in a row. The Tigers then rematched Shepherd in the title game, beating them twice.

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“I think that when we stepped foot onto that, into the championship game, we knew that this was our moment, to leave it all out on the field. And Delaney was again just such an inspiration to all of us,” says junior pitcher Morgan Pavlik.

They won those two championship games, for the first-ever program title with Kalabin on the mound.

“I said I need to get one or two innings out of you and then I’ll bring in Morgan to relieve you. She was on a roll and I let her go,” says Elgas.

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Manhattan Tigers coach Dennis Elgas

With tears running down her face, she threw the final strikeout of the game, and her teammates flooded the field in celebration.

“There was definitely tears of sadness, you know, that the season was over and tears of like, joy because, you know, we just did that,” says Ballantyne.

“We know that Delaney was looking down and looking over us. And I know that the biggest smile's on her face when she saw that,” says Pavlik.

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Delaney Doherty

The support from the people of Manhattan was felt more than ever this season.

“We live in such an awesome close-knit community. Like, we're all so blessed to be able to have a community that loves and supports us so much,” says Kabalin.

Above all, it was their teammate Delaney Doherty that carried them to the top.

“We all kind of know that she saw what we did and she's proud of us, so it's nice to be able to know that she's probably beaming with joy up there right now,” says Kabalin.

“No one's ever going to forget what we've done with, not only because of the state championship, but just what we've persevered through,” says Ballantyne.