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Revived offense helps West County advance

PIEDMONT, Mo. – Some extra time in the batting cage before boarding the bus on Monday afternoon benefited the West County softball team.

The Lady Bulldogs produced 10 hits overall, and notched four huge insurance runs during the seventh inning to answer a late Clearwater threat in an 8-2 Class 1 state sectional victory.

“All day, when we could get out of class, we went to hit in the cage,” senior Erica Barton said. “Every single one of us worked on seeing outside pitches… And that helped us tremendously.”

West County (17-3) improved to 4-0 historically in the sectional round, and will host Strafford (22-1) on Friday for a return berth in the spring final four.

The contest was a contrast from the crisp pitcher’s duel against Bismarck that spanned just 79 minutes and concluded on a dramatic two-run homer by senior RikkiLyn Wright on Saturday.

West County endured some miscues on the base paths, but capitalized on three Clearwater errors along with other close but favorable calls.

The Lady Bulldogs delivered at the plate, however, after being blanked through seven innings by Alyssa Sago in the district final two days earlier. Ivy Meinershagen and Tristin Martin provided RBI singles with two outs during the opening frame.

Sophomore Haylee Watson sparked the initial rally with a double to left-center field against Clearwater right-hander Halle Gooch, and finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

“We faced a different type of pitcher today,” West County coach C.J. Wright said. “She’s a finesse pitcher who knows how to keep the ball down, so that’s what we worked on yesterday evening in practice and today during P.E. hours.”

RikkiLyn Wright followed up her district clinching no-hitter with another quality outing. She yielded two runs on four hits and recorded eight strikeouts while walking two.

Wright reached on a misplayed ground ball, and was called safe with a stolen base in the third. Although the incoming throw arrived in plenty of time, it was ruled that Wright was never tagged with the glove.

Watson followed with an RBI single to right-center, and Barton made the West County advantage 4-0 with an RBI double that found the gap.

Clearwater (13-7) was gifted two base runners on errors in the home half of the third inning, but Rachel Rowald rounded second base too far on a dropped pop fly and was thrown out at third base.

Gooch paced the Lady Tigers by going 2-for-3, and hammered a long lead-off double in the fourth. Katie Byers caught a deep fly ball from ensuing batter Brittany Adams, and Meinershagen helped Wright avert damage by lunging to catch a line drive.

Wright faced more adversity in the sixth. Catcher Cheyanne Burton singled on a ball that Meinershagen nearly corralled while twisting backward, and moved to third base on Gooch’s second double.

Tabbie Carroll ripped a drive that deflected off Wright’s glove, but Meinershagen scooped the ball and threw from her knees at shortstop to acquire a key second out as Burton crossed the plate.

“I was really nervous and just tried to make a play,” Meinershagen said. “When it hit off RikkiLyn’s glove, I just knew that I had to get to it. I just love to see us all coming together and competing as a team. We pick each other up, and it’s just great.”

Amy Holmes made it 4-2 with a shallow RBI single, but Wright kept the margin from tightening further by dealing a clutch strikeout.

West County responded as Wright lined the first pitch of the seventh for a single. Hits from Barton and Meinershagen loaded the bases following an excellent catch Burton in foul territory.

Martin picked up her second and third RBI of the game with a single to left-center that restored a four-run cushion at 6-2. She was among four Lady Bulldogs with multiple hits.

Meinershagen slid and scored on a delayed call as Burton trapped a low throw on a fielder’s choice, and Makenzie Simily added a successful squeeze bunt.

“We struggled a little bit defensively in one inning, and had a couple of other tough plays in the sixth, but those were to be expected,” Coach Wright said. “I talked to the girls about getting regrouped – we were still ahead – and they were able to.”

Wright retired Clearwater without a blemish in the seventh to seal the outcome.

West County sophomore shortstop Ivy Meinershagen gathers a deflected ground ball in time to throw out a Clearwater batter from her knees during the sixth inning on Monday, May 8, 2017, in a Class 1 state sectional game.

West County sophomore shortstop Ivy Meinershagen gathers a deflected ground ball in time to throw out a Clearwater batter from her knees during the sixth inning on Monday, May 8, 2017, in a Class 1 state sectional game.

West County junior Tristin Martin swings for an RBI single during first inning action on Monday against Clearwater in a Class 1 sectional softball game. She drove in two more runs with a single in the seventh.

West County junior Tristin Martin swings for an RBI single during first inning action on Monday against Clearwater in a Class 1 sectional softball game. She drove in two more runs with a single in the seventh.

West County senior pitcher RikkiLyn Wright allowed four hits and recorded eight strikeouts on Monday in an 8-2 state sectional victory over Clearwater.

West County senior pitcher RikkiLyn Wright allowed four hits and recorded eight strikeouts on Monday in an 8-2 state sectional victory over Clearwater.

West County second baseman Haylee Watson fields a ground ball as Clearwater runner Mag E Hand tries to advance during the third inning on Monday.

West County second baseman Haylee Watson fields a ground ball as Clearwater runner Mag E Hand tries to advance during the third inning on Monday.

Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at mking@dailyjournalonine.com

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