By Nolan Epstein (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A big six-run fifth inning, highlighted by a pinch-hit grand slam by senior Karleigh Summers, propelled the Republic Tigers (9-5) to a come-from-behind victory on the road over Ozark (8-5) on Tuesday night.
After surrendering five runs of its own in the bottom of the fourth, Republic was able to fire up the bats in an immense way the very next frame – sending nine hitters to the plate in the fifth to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 lead and eventually securing the win by a 10-6 final.
“These girls work so hard and we work so well together,” said Summers. “You can’t do anything without them.”
Summers, who was not penciled into the lineup to start the game, was designated by head coach Lee Dishman to step in as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and two outs in the game-changing inning. With Republic trailing by two after scoring a pair of runs, Dishman felt he picked the perfect moment for the power-hitting senior to take her biggest swing of the season.
“In her last couple of at-bats, she has hit balls hard,” Dishman said of Summers. “I felt like that was a situation where she could come up big. We’ve been preaching to her about not taking the first pitch and getting after it.”
Summers obliged – rocking the first pitch from Ozark hurler Brooke Pridgen well over the left field wall for a momentum-turning grand slam.
“I just knew I needed to get out there and attack the first pitch,” said Summers. “Just relax and have fun.”
Republic managed to tack on three more runs in the top of the seventh while allowing just one more the rest of the way in the form of a Nya Morgan long ball.
“It feels amazing,” Summers added about her home run. “I’m glad that it sparked some movement in our team. We were really able to capitalize on that and really keep it going.”
The victorious Tigers’ starter Liv Collier showed her resilience throughout her outing – cruising through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth as Ozark put a five-spot on the board.
“She’s a contact pitcher,” Dishman said of Collier, a junior. “They’re going to hit balls hard off of her every once in a while, but she has to get in there and compete.”
It could have been much worse for Collier and Republic, however, as Ozark was unable to record a hit with the bases loaded and nobody out after leading 3-1 at the time.
“I think that was a momentum killer right there, that kind of hurt us,” said Ozark head coach Jimmy Nimmo.
The rest was history as five straight batters reached base for Republic in the fifth after Pridgen retired Megan Weis and Ally Stolte at the start of the inning, ultimately setting the stage for Summers.
“I give credit to Republic’s offense,” Nimmo said. “They made some adjustments at the plate. Brooke (Pridgen) did a great job keeping them off balance and they found a way to adjust. They capitalized off their baserunners.”
Both teams are back in action on Thursday as Republic hosts Neosho, while Ozark travels to play Willard.