Hall, Garrett pace Plato to quarterfinal berth

Kendall Hall won't soon forget Tuesday's wild sixth-inning play.

After her two-out single drove in a pair of runs, throwing errors allowed Plato's speedy centerfielder to circle the bases and complete the Little League home run. Hall's round-tripper capped a four-run rally and helped propel the Lady Eagles to a 5-3 sectional win over Clever.

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Reaching on a hit-by-pitch, a bunt single and an error during her previous at-bats, it was only fitting Hall provided Plato's fireworks with an "ordinary" game-winning single.

The junior discussed her resilient nature at the plate.

"I just knew that, whenever I got up to bat, I had to find a way to get on," Hall said. "The last at-bat, I knew I had to get the ball behind them to score some runs. When they overthrew third, I was like, 'I gotta get home, I gotta get home.'"

The sectional matchup featured two premier aces, and it was no surprise to see both Clever's Emily Mendenhall and Plato's Kaitin Garrett locked in a classic pitching duel early on.

With runs at an absolute premium, Plato utilized its speed on the base paths to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The Lady Eagles grabbed a second-inning lead when Allie Hall ripped a double up the middle to score Hannah Breedlove all the way from first.

Garrett took the one-run lead and cruised through the first three innings. After giving up a triple to Mendenhall in the fourth, a passed ball allowed Clever's ace to score from third to tie the game at 1-1.

In the fifth, the Lady Jays' bats finally started to heat up. Following a trio of singles to load the bases with no outs, senior Lacey Menzie slapped a two-strike change-up into the outfield to score both Taylor and Aby Menzies.

Down 3-1, Plato charged right back. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, the Lady Eagles put a pair of base-runners on for Garrett; however, the pitcher/clean-up hitter was unable to push them around.

An angry Garrett stormed to the dugout, grabbed her mitt and quickly made her way back to the mound.

When the first three Clever hitters all got on and promptly loaded the bases, it seemed Plato's hopes could unravel at any moment with the freshman struggling to find the inning's first out.

Good thing Garrett is no ordinary freshman.

After getting an infield fly-out for the first out and a force at home for a run-saving second, Garrett rang up the biggest strikeout of her young career to get herself out of the inning unscathed.

The hard-throwing right-hander talked about needing to quickly regain her focus in between innings.

"I just knew they needed me out on the mound," Garrett said. "No matter what I did at the plate, it's more important for me to perform out on the mound. I'm the one out there trying to lead the team and get the outs, and I knew my mental performance at the plate couldn't affect my pitching."

While Plato's sixth-inning comeback won the game for the Lady Eagles, the rally got off to a rocky start.

Mendenhall appeared to be rolling after getting two quick outs to open the inning with the bottom of Plato's lineup; however, a walk to Allie Hall was followed by back-to-back singles from Janet Garrett and Hannah Smith.

With the top of Plato's order due up, the stage was set the stage for Kendall Hall's two-out heroics and the subsequent 5-3 victory.

Plato head coach Justin Copley praised his team's unselfish nature and contributions from each and every position, both on the field and in the dugout.

"We weren't flawless in the field, and we weren't flawless at the plate," Copley said. "But, like I told the girls from day one, we don't give up on this team. Everyone from the one-hole to the nine-hole is an important part of this team, and they proved it today."

For Clever and head coach Cheryl Grant, missed opportunities and some untimely mistakes brought about the unfortunate result.

"I hate it for the girls," Grant said. "They've played well all year, and I'm proud of them. We just made some mistakes tonight that are uncharacteristic. The one inning situation … we haven't had that all year, and it's unfortunate that we had to have it in this game."

While disappointed, Grant put the loss and the season into perspective.

"We've got a lot of young kids, and for them to just be able get this experience, get this far and play this type of competition, it's good for them. We'll really miss our seniors, but we've got some freshmen coming up and a lot of underclassmen that got to play in this, and that will be good experience for them down the road."

Up  next for Plato (19-2) is a quarterfinal matchup with West County (22-2) on Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs downed Clever 2-1 in last season's quarterfinal matchup en route to a second-place finish in the tournament.

Plato – 5, Clever – 3

Clever  0  0  0  1  2  0  0  —  3
Plato    0  1  0  0  0  4  x  —  5