By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Kaylyn Gilbert was barely halfway down the first base line when she started shouting and clapping.
The Webb City junior had just launched a fastball over the center field fence – a no doubter of a home run – and it couldn’t have come in a bigger moment: the bottom of the sixth inning in a scoreless game to decide the district championship.
“I couldn’t slow down,” Gilbert said. “I was so excited to get back to them. It was a really close ballgame, an awesome team – you’ve got to give them that, but it was just awesome to get back to the team and celebrate that.”
Gilbert’s two-run homer, just her second of the year, was all the offense Webb City needed thanks to another standout performance from Haidyn Berry, the senior pitcher who tossed a no-hitter and struck out 15.
It all amounted to a 5-0 win for the top-ranked Cardinals in the Class 4 District 6 finals and the team’s third district crown in four years. And it came against a McDonald County team ranked second in the class and seeking its fourth district title in five years.
“What’s the feeling? It’s awesome, man,” Gilbert said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for this whole time.”
“It’s just overwhelming,’ Berry said. “We came out here and we took care of business today. That’s what we’ve been wanting to do all along. It means a lot.”
Eleven days after the teams combined for four hits and 22 strikeouts in a 1-0 Webb City win, it was no surprise that Friday’s contest was another pitcher’s duel.
Berry doubled in the bottom of the first, junior Hannah Wells tripled in the second and Berry and junior Peyton Hawkins both reached in the third on a single and a walk, respectively. But the Cardinals earned nothing to show for it and McDonald County starter Madeline McCall, a junior, struck out six batters across the first two innings.
Berry, meanwhile, struck out eight of the first nine hitters she faced and was only threatened in the fourth after freshman Carlee Cooper reached on an infield error.
After a walk by McCall, the Mustangs had two runners on with two outs. Berry got a strikeout looking to get out of the jam.
“Yeah I was a little flustered,” Berry said, “I’m going to be completely honest there but I took care of business and I knew I could get out of it because I knew my teammates had my back the whole entire way.”
After that, Berry cruised with two strikeouts in the fifth, two more in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
“Haidyn threw her best game tonight against a really good team,” Webb City coach Shauna Friend said. “Just super proud of her in the circle and her leadership of this team and the defense was behind her. They didn’t have to do a whole lot but when they were called upon they did their job and then we finally got it going with the bats and nobody ever gave up. Everybody was in it, just had to string some hits together and finally got it done there in the sixth.”
Senior Alyssa Jennings and Wells drew walks to start the sixth, putting two on for Gilbert, the catcher. Her home run should have made it a 3-0 game but the home plate umpire ruled that one of the baserunners had “jumped over” home plate and only awarded two runs.
“Maybe that fired them up a little bit,” Friend said.
After that, the floodgates opened.
Wells lined a single to center, junior Shea’lee Key walked. A wild throw back to the mound rolled into center and plated a third run.
After a groundout, junior Emma Welch walked and then Berry was walked intentionally to load the bases for Hawkins. She dropped a bloop single into shallow center to make it 5-0.
“I don’t know if (McCall) tired, she’s used to throwing a lot of innings, but I think the difference there is the Webb hitters had great plate discipline and they made her work,” McDonald County coach Heath Alumbaugh said. “They were able to lay off those pitches that we get a lot of hitters to bite at. I felt they did that, found a couple walks and came through with a big hit.”
“That’s what great teams do,” he said. “When they get a break they make their own luck and that’s exactly what Webb did tonight. Congratulations to them, I don’t want to take anything from them, they were better. They deserved it tonight.”
Webb City, 25-5, will host Bolivar, 16-6, in the quarterfinals on Oct. 22.