PLEASANT HOPE, MO - The Pleasant Hope Pirates (26-2) are back in the Final Four for the third time in four years after Saturday's 13-2 class 2 quarterfinal win over Pierce City (19-7).
The Pirates were the road team on the scoreboard despite hosting the game and got on the board with two runs in the top of the 1st. Senior Hailey Richardson singled home Kori Hillenburg to make it 2-0.
"We've got a lot of pressure on us," said Pleasant Hope head coach Jim Flora. "We played in the state championship last year and want to get back there, so when you get the lead that allows you to relax a little."
Pleasant Hope added four more runs in the 2nd inning on five hits. Senior Catlin Evans got things going with a sharp single back up the middle off Pierce City's McKenzie Moreland.
The Pirates scored in each of their five at bats, banging out 16 hits. Richardson, along with sisters Kari and Kori Hillenburg drove in three runs each to lead the offense Saturday. Meanwhile, four-year starting pitcher Sarah Siegismund has yet to allow an earned run in the playoffs, surrendering just three hits, striking out six, in the victory.
"She just does an outstanding job and hits her spots and makes our defense make plays," said Flora. "It makes coaching easy when you've got players like her."
Siegismund and her battery mate Evans are two of six Pleasant Hope seniors that saw last year's season end with a championship loss to Palmyra, after winning their first 28 games. The Pirates will get a shot at payback Friday, 11:00 AM in the semifinals at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield as they square off once again with Palmyra (25-4).
"They need to enjoy the moment," said Flora. "If we can go and enjoy it and relax and play our game I think we have a good shot."
"We don't feel the pressure like last year, because last year we were undefeated," said Hailey Richardson. "Sometimes losses are actually good."
"We learned to not take things for granted last year," said Evans. "We have no regrets, and I can say I've had no regrets my senior year."
Pierce City head coach Kacy Gunnels will bring back a ton of talent next season as the Eagles lose just two seniors.