By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
If senior pitcher Haidyn Berry couldn’t win her final game in a Webb City uniform, she took great consolation that she and the Lady Cardinals were part of an action-packed, extra-inning thriller that could go down as one of the best games in state tournament history.
“Going out with a bang, that’s what we did,” Berry said.
Webster Groves edged Webb City 5-4 in an eight-inning instant classic for the Class 4 state title Friday.
The last three innings were about as good as it gets, with exceptional efforts in the clutch on both sides.
“It was awesome,” Berry said. “It had everything. We fought our hardest. We can look at the scoreboard and be proud. It was a good game to go out on.”
“I’m sure it was a great game to watch,” Lady Cardinals coach Shauna Friend said.
The late-inning fireworks that everyone will remember for years to come began in the sixth. With Webster Groves leading 2-1 and Webb City’s Alyssa Jennings on second base with two out, Hannah Wells lined out to Webster Groves center fielder Alyssa Moran. Moran dove fully-extended in front of her and secured the ball at the tip of her glove.
With the outfield still soggy and muddy from the rain that fell all week, Moran emerged from the ground with her uniform covered in mud.
“I don’t think this is going to come out, but that’s OK,” Moran said. “I’m going to wear it like this next year.
“I was being very aggressive,” she added. “I knew I had to dive for it. I was slipping around. You couldn’t take long strides or else you would sink into the mud.”
“She made a fantastic catch, that was a game-changer,” Friend said. “Hannah had a great hit. It could have gone either way and it might have been a different outcome.”
“That’s awesome to have that type of play in this game,” Berry said. “That even got us fired up.”
Webb City third baseman Brianna Batson really gave the Lady Cardinals a reason to be excited an inning later. After Webster Groves added what appeared to be an insurance run in the top of the seventh, Batson made extra innings necessary.
Hitting a modest .245 entering the game and hitting out of the nine hole, Batson belted a one-out, two-run home run to tie things up at 3-all.
“It was amazing to come through for my team,” Batson said. “At first, I felt like I was sprinting around the bases. I had so much adrenaline.”
Batson has a high leg kick as she swings that over the years she has been encouraged by coaches to both keep and abandon.
“I’ve had a few coaches who tried to change it,” Batson said. “But I’ve stuck with it because it’s been my thing and it works for me.”
“It works as long as she gets her timing down,” Friend said. “She has a lot of power when she gets a hold of it. It was fantastic to see one of our seniors come through. She had been struggling lately. But I knew she had it in her. She was so determined. I’m very proud of her.”
Not deterred, Webster Groves answered in the eighth with two-out RBI-doubles by both Taylor Knapp and Ava Fitzgibbon.
Webster Groves (17-4) put together 12 hits against Berry. She struck out eight.
“She was shutting them down early,” Friend said. “Then, they made adjustments and were able to get key hits.”
“We were looking for a first-pitch strike against her,” said Moran, who was 2-for-4. “We didn’t want to get deep in the count.”
Webb City made it interesting until the final out. Jennings doubled to lead off the Lady Cardinals’ half of the eighth. Kaylyn Gilbert walked and one later Wells delivered an RBI-single. With runners on second and third, winning pitcher Madelyn Buske induced a pair of popouts to end the game.
Webb City finishes 27-7.
“I want them to be remembered as a team that was so much fun to watch,” Friend said. “They’re a great group of young ladies on and off the field. They’re not only talented but have the character you want to see in a team.”
“I love my team,” Batson said. “They’ve made this the best experience I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
“I’d give anything to get back out there again one more time,” Berry said. “But it’s not going to happen.”
Berry ended her senior year with a single-season school-record 19 home runs.
“I was really shocked at myself this year,” she said. “It was a fun year. I had some of the best teammates ever and our coaches are awesome. The way (our) community came out today and supported us, it means everything to me.”
Webster Groves 5, Webb City 4
WEBSTER GROVES (ab-r-h-bi) – Moran cf 4-2-2-0, Collins ss 3-0-2-0, Jansen c 4-0-2-3, King 3b 4-0-0-0, Clark 1b 4-0-1-0, Buske p 4-0-1-0, Castro 2b 4-1-1-0, Knapp rf 4-0-1-1, Smith pr 0-1-0-0, Fitzgibbon lf 4-1-2-1.
WEBB CITY – Welch rf 4-0-2-0, Berry p 4-0-1-1, Hawkins ss 4-0-0-0, Jennings cf 2-1-1-0, Gilbert c 2-0-0-0, Lamar 1b 3-0-0-0, Wells dh 4-0-1-1, Key 2b 4-2-2-0, Batson 3b 3-1-1-2.
Webster Groves 002 000 12 – 5 12 1
Webb City 000 010 21 – 4 8 1
WP – Buske. LP – Berry. 2b – Collins, Jansen, Buske, Knapp, Fitzgibbon, Jennings. HR – Batson.