By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Walnut Grove, Mo. — When her team needed her most, Weaubleau’s Jenna Daggett delivered.
During Wednesday’s Class 1 sectional round matchup against Walnut Grove, the junior left-hander threw a no-hitter to help lead Weaubleau to a 5-0 victory.
Daggett’s performance in the circle got a big boost before she even threw her first pitch.
Second baseman Liz Stewart connected on a 3-run blast in the top of the first inning to give Weaubleau the early lead.
Wednesday’s performance was in stark contrast to the last time Weaubleau visited Walnut Grove. Daggett was rocked early and ended up losing a 9-7 decision in the Oct. 8 matchup.
Weaubleau coach Shania Francka was quick to note the primary difference between the two games.
“I thought our energy was a lot better coming into this game,” Francka said. “We just struggled a lot last time we were over here. Jenna didn’t have it that night, but she had it tonight. She’s our leader, she’s our go-to and we feed off of her. When she’s on, we’re tough to beat.”
Utilizing a potent fastball and a knuckle change-up, Daggett was able to keep the Walnut Grove hitters off-balance throughout the contest.
“I was just making sure I buckled down tonight,” the Weaubleau ace said. “I knew that I had to start off up in the count so I had the chance. I tried to go outside with the first pitch and then up and in. They were late and out in front a little bit.”
Weaubleau’s early lead allowed Daggett to pitch with command and confidence; however, the first-inning fireworks didn’t exactly go off as planned.
With runners at the corners and only one out, Stewart stepped to the plate hoping to move both runners into scoring position.
While Francka called for a fake bunt Stewart opted to take a big cut instead.
The hunch paid off, as the senior’s bomb off Walnut Grove’s Faith Gilkey gave Weaubleau the lead and plenty of momentum.
“Coach told me to just put down that fake bunt, but I decided not to and went for the swing,” Stewart said. “I just felt like I needed to hit.”
In the third inning, Daggett helped her own cause with an RBI to score Makayla Hostettler from third, and then Brynn Mitchell’s sixth-inning RBI single helped seal the victory for Weaubleau with a final insurance run.
Despite the loss, Walnut Grove head coach Jeff Dishman had nothing but praise for his team.
Days before the season started, Walnut Grove lost Makayla McVay — the team’s top pitcher — to an ACL injury. A rash of injuries and obstacles during the season forced the short-handed squad to cancel several games, as well.
Still, Walnut Grove battled its way to a district title with Gilkey serving as the team’s workhorse in the circle.
“I just told them how proud I was, all year long, of what they’ve done,” Dishman said. “A lot of people probably didn’t think we’d be here. We had a chance, but we just got beat by a better team tonight.”
Gilkey finished with six strikeouts, nine hits and two walks in the loss.
Lauren Johnson and Skyler Boyd both drew walks and were the lone baserunners for Walnut Grove, who finishes its season with a 12-8 record.
Next up for Weaubleau (17-7) is a quarterfinal matchup at Stoutland (17-3-1) on Saturday, Oct. 26.
After falling just short of a Class 1 Final Four berth last season, Francka feels Weaubleau is hungry and ready to take another big step in its postseason run.
“We’re just going to relax and have fun,” Francka said. “We were there last year. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we’re just going to go in and have fun. We’ve just got to go and play our ball, and then everything will take care of the rest.”
Varsity Final: Weaubleau – 5, Walnut Grove – 0
Walnut Grove 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
Weaubleau 3 0 1 0 1 x — 3
Hits: Walnut Grove – 0, Weaubleau – 9
Errors: Walnut Grove – 1, Weaubleau – 0
LOB: Walnut Grove – 2, Weaubleau – 6
2B: Weaubleau (Makayla Hostettler – 1)