FESTUS, Mo. — Central hitters battled standout Festus pitcher Mollie Carter into several deep counts Wednesday in hopes of winning the first state playoff softball game in program history.
But the Lady Rebels were ultimately overpowered by Carter, whose 10 total strikeouts eclipsed her season average by one, and ended their banner season with an 8-3 loss in the Class 3 sectional round.
First baseman Tiffany Link went 3-for-4 and made a stellar defensive play in the second inning to pace Festus (24-2), which advanced to meet Kennedy in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
The Lady Tigers collected 14 total hits — some more solidly struck than others — and capitalized on six errors as Central struggled to duplicate its brilliant performance in last week’s district title win over Notre Dame.
Morgin Reece fanned three batters while walking none, and managed to blank the Festus lineup until the fourth despite yielding leadoff hits in five separate innings.
Central’s junior pitcher worked around a double by Link to begin the second, then fielded three straight ground balls to cruise through the third.
She nearly escaped a bases-loaded jam with back-to-back strikeouts, but No. 9 batter Ashley Davis looped a shallow single beyond leaping shortstop Georgia Richardson to break the scoreless tie.
Cheyenne Pratt followed with an RBI single on a flare behind second base, giving the Lady Tigers a 2-0 lead. Right fielder Ally Welch prevented another runner from reaching home with an accurate throw.
The Lady Rebels answered with an RBI single by catcher Olivia Casey after Hanna Stam walked and advanced on two ground balls in the bottom of the fourth. Their second hit did not arrive until the sixth.
Carter started fast by retiring her first nine batters. She was aided by a diving grab from Link after Casey ripped a scorching line drive toward the opposite field.
The Lady Tigers regained control with five consecutive hits to open the fifth inning. Breanna Peters doubled ahead of singles by Lauren Todd and Sarah Weidner, and Carter helped herself with a key two-run single.
Three straight batters reached on errors in the sixth, and Festus extended its 5-1 margin when Link’s misplayed single to center cleared the bases.
“Festus got some big hits when they needed them,” Central coach Matt Bradley said. “We lost to a really good team tonight.”
Casey finished with three RBI after capping her 2-for-3 day with a two-run shot to right during the Central sixth. Her fifth homer of the season matched Stam’s freshman total from last fall.
Richardson scored on the blast after hustling out an infield hit. Maddie Hart and Stam added subsequent doubles for the Lady Rebels.
Carter allowed two batters to reach in the seventh, but struck out the side and improved her season record to 22-1.
Weidner scored three runs and ended 2-for-4 while Pratt added two singles with two stolen bases for Festus. Davis and Carter also contributed two hits each, and Carol Floyd delivered a sacrifice fly.
Festus 000 233 0 – 8 14 0
Central 000 102 0 – 3 5 6
W – Mollie Carter 7ip 3r 3er 5h 10k 3bb.
L – Morgin Reece 7ip 8r 5er 14h 3k 0bb.
Festus – Tiffany Link 3-4, Cheyenne Pratt 2-4, Sarah Weidner 2-4, Mollie Carter 2-4, Ashley Davis 2-4, Carol Floyd 1-3, Lauren Todd 1-4, Breanna Peters 1-5. 2b – Peters, Link.
Central – Olivia Casey 2-3, Maddie Hart 1-2, Hanna Stam 1-3, Georgia Richardson 1-3. 2b – Stam, Hart. HR – Casey (5).