By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Haidyn Berry didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and not a single runner made it past first base.
Behind some dominant pitching and solid defense the Webb City softball team earned a 3-0 win at Carthage on Tuesday, wrapping up an undefeated Central Ozark Conference season in the process.
“It’s a hard thing to do so I’m really proud of them for really working hard throughout the season and accomplishing that undefeated status,” Webb City coach Shauna Friend said. “There are a lot of good teams in our conference and it was good to come out undefeated.”
On a day where the offense was uncharacteristically sluggish, the Cardinals (18-5, 9-0) scratched across a run in the first inning that would prove the game winner.
Junior Alyssa Jennings drew a bases-loaded walk with a full count to force in a run after five-straight solid at bats to start the game. Sophomore Peyton Hawkins led off with a single, senior Keira Jackson moved her over with a sacrifice bunt and senior Stacy Tyndall and Berry each singled to load the bases.
It would remain a 1-0 game until the seventh inning.
“Definitely our pitching and defense won this game for us,” Friend said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to scratch a few runs across. We left entirely too many runners on base of course but you’re going to have games like that every now and then. The bats just weren’t in sync tonight and we were thankful that Haidyn was on and the rest of our defense was right behind her making plays and getting the job done.”
Berry finished the game with nine strikeouts and allowed just two hits. She didn’t issue a walk.
Carthage’s Katie Crowe broke up the no-hitter with a bloop single to shallow center field with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Berry then got a quick strikeout to end the inning.
Carthage’s Aubrey Willis reached on a two-out infield single in the sixth but was thrown out by catcher Taylor Harris on a steal attempt at second base.
That was just one of several solid defensive plays for the Cardinals. Third baseman Karson Culver caught a foul pop up that took her into the Carthage dugout in the fourth inning.
“I wanted to be undefeated in the conference so I had to do what I had to do to get my team there,” Berry said. “They had my back the whole way. We chipped away and got it done.”
“We were really solid all around on D,” she said. “We work hard in practice to get better.”
Offensively the Cardinals loaded the bases in three innings but stranded a total of 12 runners. They had hits in every inning but the third, but very nearly scored an insurance run in that inning when Berry belted a pitch over the left field wall.
Teammates ran out to home plate to meet her but as Berry rounded second base she got word that the ball was ruled foul.
“I was kind of disappointed but it happens,” she said.
After the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the first and scored just one run, Friend had a hunch it might be “one of those days” for the offense.
“After not being able to get them across in that first inning it seemed like things were a little off,” she said. “We were a little off at the plate. Hitters didn’t seem like they were as comfortable and confident as they’ve been all season. You’re going to have a game like that every now and then.”
The insurance runs finally came in the seventh. Jackson singled to left, Tyndall doubled off the wall in left and Berry was intentionally walked to load the bases. Culver was eventually hit in the leg by a pitch to force in a run, and Jennings added a sacrifice fly to left to make it 3-0.
Berry retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the seventh to clinch it.
“It feels really good,” she said. “We’ve really worked hard for it. I’m proud of my teammates, they stuck through that game with me and we held them on defense. Defense wins ballgames.”
“I’m really proud of how Haidyn and Taylor worked together tonight,” Friend said. “They were really able to keep Carthage off base and she had a two hitter. Haidyn just came out and really had a great game.”
Carthage pitcher Emily Calhoon struck out six in the game. The Tigers dropped to 10-13 with the loss.
Webb City’s Tyndall singled, doubled and walked and scored a run. Culver also reached base three times; she walked and was twice hit by pitches.
The Cardinals are slated to host Kickapoo on Thursday afternoon but that game may be moved to Monday with rainy weather in the forecast. The Cardinals will travel to Columbia Rock Bridge Saturday.
Carthage will host its invitational this weekend and travel to Lamar on Oct. 14 to wrap up the regular season.