PALMYRA, Mo. — Defense was the difference in Thursday’s Class 2 District 12 softball semifinal.
Clark County got a strong pitching performance from Kailey Roberts and the Lady Indians played near flawless defense behind her. Mark Twain, on the other hand, committed four errors, three which resulted in the lone three runs of the game. Clark County advanced to the district final with a 3-0 win at Flower City Park.
“I thought Kailey probably threw her best game of the year, and we really played good defense behind her,” said Clark County Head Coach Adam Rung. “At this time of the year, we tell the girls that if you play good defense and get good pitching, you have a good chance to win.”
Clark County, 17-8 on he season, plays Palmyra, the top seed, for the district title at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Panthers advanced with a 4-0 win over Monroe City in the second semifinal Thursday.
“We’ve been knocking on the door the last couple of years in the district semifinals. We’ve played some good games and come up on the short end. It’s nice to get over that hump,” Rung said. “We can’t be satisfied. We have one more to win a district title and we’ll be ready Saturday.”
Both teams missed scoring opportunities in the opening inning.
In the top of the first inning, Kailey Roberts led off with a single to right field. Courtesy runner Dalanee Tripp stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jenna Huston. Hannah Trump followed with a bouncer to third baseman Keeley Smashey, who threw home for the out.
Mark Twain’s best scoring chance came in the bottom of the first inning. Alicia Cole led off with a walk. Chloe Majors followed with a bunt that was mishandled. The throw to first sailed over Brittani Miller, but right fielder Raelynn Hunziker backed up the play to keep the runners at second and first.
“We had our one miscue. We had a bad throw, and Raelynn Hunziker was alert in right field,” Rung said. “She backs it up and the runner wasn’t able to go to first and third on the play. We hold them at first and second with no one out. That was big. You don’t how the game would have changed.”
Smashey hit into a fielder’s choice with second baseman Jamie Bash throwing Cole out at third base. Kyley Barnes hit a two-out single to load the bases, but Amanda Camber flied out to Mishaylee Cline in center field to end the inning.
Roberts didn’t run into much trouble the rest of the game. The junior pitcher did not allow two runners to reach base in an inning until the final inning.
“Kailey was on tonight,” Rung said. “She really hit her spots. She made her pitches to get them to put the ball in play, and we did the job defensively.”
Clark County scored the first run of the game in the third inning.
Roberts led off with a walk, and courtesy runner Tripp stole second. Grossman retired the next two batters and looked like she would get out of the inning when Bash hit a slow roller to first base. Camber fielded the ground ball and could have tagged Bash out. Instead, Camber tossed it to McKenzie Johnston covering the first. Johnston couldn’t come up with the catch, and Tripp scored to give the Lady Indians the lead.
Clark County added a run in the sixth.
Jessica Roberts was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Megan Oilar sacrificed pinch runner Dannieka Bertelli to second. Grossman recorded a strike out for the second out of the inning, but the Lady Indians took advantage of another Mark Twain error. Cole fielded a ball at shortstop on a ball hit by Miller, but the throw sailed over Camber at first base. Bertelli scored, and Miller went to second. Hunter Kirchner followed with a single up the middle, but Miller was thrown out at home to end the inning.
“We put runners on each inning the first time we played them and only scored one. Tonight, we got a couple of more in. We put pressure on them, and they made some errors,” Rung said. “We were aggressive. We had a couple of runners thrown out at the plate, but we did what we needed to do to win the game.”
Clark County scored an insurance run in the seventh inning.
Kailey Roberts fouled off a number of pitches before sending a line drive to right field. Victoria Thompson came in on the hit, but the ball hit off the top of her glove. Roberts went to second on the play, and Bash hit a two-out single up the middle to score Tripp for the second time in the game.
Clark County retired the first two Mark Twain batters in the bottom of the seventh. Kailey Roberts knocked down a line drive by Johnston and threw to first for the first out of the game, and Bash went to her right to field a ground ball by Sarah Sapp for out number two. Thompson kept the game alive with a single up the middle, and Cole walked for the third time in the game to bring the tieing run to the plate and Rung out to talk to his team.
The conversation didn’t last very long and the game ended moments later when Majors grounded out to Huston.
“In the last inning, you get a little ampped up,” Rung said. “I called time to just go out there and settle her down. She made her pitch and got a ground ball out, just like she did all night.”
Roberts pitched a four-hit shutout for the win. She walked three and struck out three,
Kailey Roberts, Bash and Kirchner each had two hits for Clark County. Miller had one hit.
Smashey, Grossman, Barnes and Thompson each had one hit for Mark Twain. Grossman pitched a complete game and struck out 10, but took the loss.