By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s been seven years since the Webb City softball team earned a trip to the state semifinals.
The drought ended on Thursday.
Sparked by a Haidyn Berry home run, the Cardinals scored four runs in the third inning and held off visiting Bolivar 7-3 in a Class 4 quarterfinal.
“It’s a good place to be and the girls, I’m sure you heard them, they’re pretty darn excited about it and the coaches are too,” Webb City coach Shauna Friend said.
Already leading 1-0, Berry, a senior, hit a home run to right field with one out in the third inning. Junior Peyton Hawkins then drew a walk, senior Alyssa Jennings singled and junior Kaylyn Gilbert was hit by a pitch to load the bases for junior Emalee Lamar.
Lamar drove in one run with a groundout to second, and junior Hannah Wells followed with a sharp single past second to score two more and make it 5-0.
“Just extremely proud of the offense,” Friend said. “They went up there every at bat and gave it all they got and just made things happen. That was our plan going in, we’ve got to put our bat on the ball and make them work.”
Webb City took advantage of Bolivar miscues in the first to take an early lead.
Hawkins reached on an error and found herself at third base and Jennings at second after another defensive mistake. Hawkins broke for home on a wild pitch and slid under the tag to make it 1-0.
“Excellent base running,” Friend said. “She took advantage of a mistake. At this level, at this point in the season that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to take everything you can get.”
Bolivar coach Brian Thompson said the first inning set the tone.
“I just feel like we weren’t ready,” he added. “I told them ‘I’m not going to tell you it wasn’t our day. It was just as much our day as it was theirs.’ I think in the long run what it was, my gut tells me their mindset wasn’t right. We were too focused on Saturday possibly instead of just taking care of business today.”
The five-run deficit after three innings was deflating, he said.
“We didn’t quit, we kept fighting,” he said. “They got hits in key times, we made some mistakes during those times too. Not all seven of those were earned. The first one wasn’t, I’d say at least four or five weren’t earned because we threw the ball around and made some mistakes.”
The teams traded runs in the fourth and fifth, with Bolivar getting on the scoreboard on a solo home run by senior pitcher Katie Brooks in the fourth and Webb City scoring in the fifth when Lamar singled in Jennings, who reached on a walk.
Things got interesting in the sixth. Brooks singled with two outs and junior Avery McClure then blasted the first pitch she saw over the left field wall to cut Webb City’s lead to 6-3.
But the Cardinals added an insurance run in the seventh when Jennings reached on a leadoff single and later slid under a tag at home following a groundout to second.
Bolivar, the home team on the scoreboard, didn’t go down easy in the bottom of the seventh. Senior Ashton Lynn reached on a single and junior Jadyn Hamilton walked. Both runners were in scoring position with one out, but a fly out and a strikeout ended the game.
Webb City’s Berry struck out 11 and scattered five hits in the game.
“She’s been on a great run,” Friend said. “She’s really throwing some of her best stuff right now. I’m sure she didn’t like giving up those home runs but overall she threw a great game to a good team.”
Bolivar’s Brooks struck out 14.
“Difference is they were ready to hit and I don’t think we were,” Thompson said.
Bolivar’s season ends with a 16-7 record.
Webb City, now 26-5, will play at 2 p.m. Saturday against Platte County, 21-1, in Platte City.