FARMINGTON – The dangerous bat of Emma Becker helped the North County softball team take the first pivotal showdown against rival Farmington on Thursday evening.
The sophomore catcher launched a tying two-run homer in the fifth inning, then added another two-run blast for insurance as the Lady Raiders prevailed 9-6.
North County (7-2, 3-0) scored eight unanswered runs to support winning pitcher Michaela Mason, who struck out five and allowed 10 hits while going the distance.
The battle of MAAA conference leaders was heavily tilted toward the home team through four innings as Farmington (3-4, 2-1) surged to a 6-1 advantage.
Senior shortstop Alyson Tucker paced the Knights by going 4-for-4, and narrowly missed a home run in the third when her double was collected by the flexible fence in left-center field.
Emily Briese lifted a sacrifice fly to score Hannah Wood, who began the frame with a single. A squeeze bunt by Jaiden Grimes increased the margin to 2-0.
North County pushed back on an RBI single from Samantha Payne, who was 2-for-3 overall, but Mason faced her roughest stretch when Farmington produced four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Makenna LaChance looped a hustling RBI double to restore a 3-1 lead after Joy Sparks singled, and a dropped throw to first base gave the Knights another runner.
Wood walked to load the bases, and Tucker drove a long two-run single to left-center. Sophia White added an RBI hit before a solid play at third base by Kiersdan Davis prevented further damage.
Knights starter Taylor Johnson was working on a three-hitter heading into the fifth inning, but North County needed just five batters to erase its five-run deficit.
No. 9 batter Jayden Neubauer reached on a lead-off walk, and four consecutive hits followed. Maizie Tyree lined an RBI double to left, and Kennedy Kohler singled her in to make it 6-3.
Wood replaced Johnson in the circle after Lexi Adams slapped an opposite-field RBI single, and Becker greeted her with a towering shot to left-center.
“We took a better approach at the plate, obviously, and started hitting the inside pitch and squaring it up,” North County head coach Steve Elam said.
The go-ahead run resulted on a play at the plate with two outs. A slow roller was fielded, but the ball was jarred loose as catcher Hannah Boeckman tried to tag pinch-runner Cheyenne Dickens.
Mason protected the lead over during her final three innings, working around leadoff hits by Tucker in the sixth and Grimes in the seventh.
Becker continued her onslaught with a two-run shot to right in the top of the sixth after Kohler was hit by a pitch. That drive marked her second multi-homer game this week and fourth at the varsity level.
A potential rally in the Farmington sixth fizzled when a hit-and-run backfired. Second baseman Brianna Morgan caught a pop fly and doubled off Tucker at first base.
The Knights received two solid defensive plays from their corner outfielders. Carly Savage ran down a sinking fly ball near the line in right, and Grimes made a sliding catch while charging in from left.
Tyree produced two doubles for the Lady Raiders, the first of which nearly carried over the left-field fence and glanced off Grimes’ outstretched glove.
Farmington missed a brilliant scoring chance after Tucker opened the first inning with a triple. Mason came back to get a strikeout and two harmless ground balls.
A rematch is scheduled for Sept. 19 in Bonne Terre.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com