By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ready to bunt, Bolivar sophomore Emme Hall got the pitch she wanted.
A few pitches later, Hall saw another ball approaching her wheelhouse.
This time, she wasn’t bunting. And this time, she didn’t miss.
Hall drilled a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to break a scoreless tie. Her first homer of the season sparked Bolivar to an eventual 5-0 win over Hillcrest in the Class 3 District 11 tournament title game on Saturday afternoon.
“The first pitch, it was awful because I missed my bunt attempt,” Hall said. “Then, 3-2 count… I just wanted to get a good ball and she pitched it right where I could hit it. I swung as hard as I could and it went over the fence.”
“I guess it worked out for the better. When I missed (the bunt). I was like, ‘Oh no.’”
It’s the third district title in seven years for Bolivar softball (20-6 overall) and first since 2014. The Liberators play McDonald County at Wednesday in a Class 3 sectional.
Bolivar has one of the area’s youngest lineups. The Liberators started five freshmen, three sophomores and just one senior against Hillcrest.
Bolivar coach Brian Thompson described them as a competitive group.
“This group of girls, they’re not afraid of anybody,” Thompson said. “They’re going to come out and give 150 percent every single day. We’re a bunch of grinders. We get out there and play blue-collar softball.”
Liberators ace Katie Brooks, who has verbally committed to play at Florida State, allowed just one hit while striking out eight and walking four.
“She throws with great velocity,” said Hillcrest coach Michael Runnels. “You’re throwing 65 mph, it’s hard to react. I thought our girls did well putting stuff into play and putting pressure on their defense. But you tip your hat to them.”
Up 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Bolivar put the game out of reach on a two-run infield single by senior Carsyn Julien.
“It feels so good because everyone we’re playing is older than us and more experienced,” Hall said. “We’re new and young. Just to come out here and win the whole dang (district tournament) feels so good.”
Hillcrest starting pitcher Halle Pyle, a sophomore, threw all six innings. She gave up eight hits, two walks and struck out four.
Hillcrest senior Madison Shafferkoetter broke up Brooks’ no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the seventh inning.
The Hornets entered Saturday on a six-game winning streak, which included wins over Ozark and Reeds Spring.
“That just kind of got things rolling for us,” Runnels said. “Any time you can beat a program like Ozark, then turn around and beat Reeds Spring at their place, it gets things going.
“I’m so proud of my girls. To have this opportunity to play for a district title, it’s an amazing feeling and opportunity.”
The Hornets may have been in unprecedented territory on Saturday as well.
“It could be something that happened many years ago, but in recent memory, Hillcrest softball has not played for a district title before today,” Runnels said.