FLORISSANT, Mo. — Superior pitching and contagious hitting carried the Mineral Area women’s softball team to a dominant 17-1 record against Division II, Region XVI competition during the regular season.
Those familiar ingredients combined with steady defense and timely help from a versatile bench on Saturday, as the Lady Cardinals followed the championship standard set in their previous two seasons of existence.
Mineral Area was limited to an innocent infield single through three innings against Forest Park pitcher Sami Deen, but erupted for five runs in the fourth to comfortably prevail 9-1 in the region tournament final.
Alex Perry scattered six hits and struck out three for her 20th win, and was named to the all-region First Team for MAC along with freshman center fielder Emily Hanquist, and sophomore infielders Tori Henson and Callie Dennis.
Hanquist improved her .459 batting average by going 2-for-3, including a RBI double that capped the decisive rally after a leadoff walk to Perry and misplayed fielder’s choice began the bottom of the fourth.
Catcher Jamie Bullock snapped a 1-1 deadlock with a RBI single to left field, and would join speedy outfielder Allyson Luce and North County High School teammate Jennifer Hackworth on the all-region Second Team.
Perhaps the biggest swing of the contest was delivered by pinch-hitter Hannah Hicks, whose two-run double with the bases loaded extended the margin to 4-1 ahead of Luce’s sacrifice fly.
Mineral Area coach Dave Guemmer also employed four different reserves as pinch-runners. Addie Scoggin crossed the plate with the team’s first tally, and Tory Smith scored the final run as the mercy rule was enforced.
“Every year it gets tougher and tougher to win this thing,” Guemmer said. “If we lost this game and had to play another one, then you never know what might have happened. It was nice to not have to worry about that.”
Kelley Bridgmon finished 2-for-3 overall and Forest Park (14-22) threatened with back-to-back hits from Lindsey Shoults and Chase Boehner in the fifth, but MAC shortstop Emilie Martin stabbed a line drive to start a double play.
Luce legged out an infield single to propel a Mineral Area rally in the sixth, and crisp RBI hits from Henson, Perry and Dennis sealed the outcome as five consecutive Lady Cardinals reached safely with one out.
Mineral Area reached the district final on Friday by defeating Forest Park 8-0 behind a two-hit shutout from Hackworth. Perry yielded her lone run to the Highlanders when Bridgmon lined a RBI single in the third.
“We have mostly relied on two pitchers this year, and wanted to rest Alex and Jennifer some toward the end of the season,” Guemmer said. “They came back strong here in the regional tournament, so that didn’t hurt us at all.”
The Lady Cardinals (34-16) advanced to a best-of-three district playoff, and will host Murray State of Tishomingo, Okla. Game one of the series is scheduled for Friday afternoon at the Farmington Sports Complex.
Forest Park 001 000 - 1 6 2
Mineral Area 001 503 - 9 9 0
WP - Alex Perry 6ip 1r 1er 6h 3k 2bb.
LP - Sami Deen 5 1/3ip 9r 9er 9h 5k 5bb.
Forest Park - Kelley Bridgmon 2-3, Lindsey Shoults 1-1, Chase Boehner 1-3, Holly Roth 1-3, Libby Brengle 1-3.
Mineral Area - Emily Hanquist 2-3, Hannah Hicks 1-1, Jamie Bullock 1-2, Alex Perry 1-3, Allyson Luce 1-3, Beth Winckel 1-3, Tori Henson 1-4, Callie Dennis 1-4. 2b - Hanquist, Perry, Hicks.