By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CRANE — Olivia Edwards avoided walks once again while in the center circle Wednesday and in contrast, couldn’t avoid being walked while in the batter’s box.
The Crane junior’s pitching and walking, of all things, factored prominently in the second-seeded Lady Pirates’ 5-3 upset of top-seeded Forsyth in the Class 1 District 9 championship game.
Edwards didn’t issue a walk while throwing a five-hitter. She has given up a free pass to only six batters in nearly 100 innings all season and two of those were hit batsmen.
Per usual, when she got behind in the count and needed a strike in the worst way Wednesday, Edwards delivered.
“I get super-focused, zone everything out and it’s just me and the mitt,” Edwards said of pitching in the clutch. “I’m not worried about anything else and do what I know how to do.”
“Her control is unbelievable,” Crane coach Mike Morelock said. “Inside or outside, it doesn’t matter, she will put it right where I tell the catcher to tell her where to throw it.
“Olivia’s competitiveness and determination are unmatched. I felt like she was the top pitcher in our district and conference and she proved it tonight. She was awesome.”
Edwards allowed Forsyth (15-7) a single run in the fourth inning and two in the seventh.
Crane (11-4), which fell to the Lady Panthers twice in the regular season, rallied from being down 1-0 by scoring all five of its runs in the fifth.
With runners on first and second and one out, Edwards was intentionally walked to load the bases for Mackinzie Funcannon. She walked to bring home the Lady Pirates’ first run. Shelby Ellingsworth answered with the game’s biggest hit, a two-run single. A third run scored due to an error on the play. Katie Robinson capped the uprising with an RBI-single.
Forsyth, which made four pitching changes, also intentionally walked Edwards in the seventh.
“I really wanted to hit,” Edwards said. “But honestly, if there were runners on base, I was prepared to be walked because it has happened in the past. So, as much as I was wanting to hit. I was expecting it.”
“Forsyth is very well-coached and I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Morelock sad. “They walked her and paid the price for it. I’ve been telling our girls they have to step up and they did tonight. To get five runs against those guys is no easy thing.”
“It stinks when Olivia can’t hit when she wants to be hitting,” Ellingsworth said. “But she has people to back her up.”
Funcannon and Edwards both ended the regular season watching from the Crane dugout due to hand injuries. They returned to the Lady Pirates’ lineup at the start of Districts.
“They’ve been playing through some pain,” Morelock said. “I don’t think they’re feeling any pain right now.”
Forsyth got the potential tying run at-bat in the seventh, after base hits by Kyleigh Kincaid, Katrina Drake and Audrey Ward. But Edwards handled the last out herself on a groundout.
Ellingworth hopes Crane’s second straight District title earns its program respect. She said it’s not always easy playing softball after the school’s four straight girls basketball state championships from 2013-16.
“I feel we get so overlooked,” Ellingsworth said. “We’re here to play and we’re ecstatic for this second championship.”
Crane 000 050 0 — 5
Forsyth 000 100 2 — 3
WP – Edwards. LP – Essary.