LEADWOOD – West County rallied with a vengeance while chasing the last available title of its spring softball season. But Central remained obstinate until the final play.
The Lady Rebels captured the MAAA Tournament crown with a wild 6-5 victory on Wednesday night, thwarting an explosive and defiant challenge from the defending champions.
Sophomore shortstop Jessica Hulsey finished 2-for-3, and lashed an opposite-field, two-run triple that initially felt like a knockout punch in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Allie Kelly followed with an RBI double to the left-center gap, and Central (16-5) assumed a 6-1 lead as freshman pitcher Taylor Marler continued to cruise in the circle.
West County (10-6) entered the week as the No. 4 seed, and its hopes of a fifth straight title seemed implausible after a recent stumble against Bismarck.
The Lady Bulldogs refused to fade without offering one last spirited challenge, and generated four runs in the sixth to change the complexion of the game.
Three consecutive singles from Haylee Watson, Makenzie Simily and Megan Perkins ended the outing for Marler, who carried a two-hit shutout bid through four innings while striking out three.
Claire Stevens put an RBI ground out in play, and Perkins scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-3 as Chloe Coppedge took over in relief.
Hannah Meyers slapped an RBI double to left-center with the entire Central outfield stationed just a few feet from the outfield grass, and pitcher Ivy Meinershagen singled her home for a 6-5 score.
Jenna Simily stepped to the dish after coaxing a mesmerizing 14-pitch, bases-loaded walk against Marler in the fifth. Coppedge got ahead in the count with an off-speed delivery, and fanned her to avert further damage.
Meinershagen threw her third complete game in three nights for the Lady Bulldogs, and worked around a leadoff single by Millie McDowell that was misplayed for an extra base in the Central sixth.
Coppedge calmly slammed the door in the seventh for Central, capping a two-inning save by retiring the final two batters on soft comebackers.
McDowell walked while going 2-for-2 officially, and leadoff batter Aubree Eaton singled with two runs scored as the Lady Rebels extended their win streak to 10.
The tournament received a facelift as the addition of former fall programs Central, Potosi and Ste. Genevieve increased the field from five teams to eight.
Both finalists bounced higher seeds in the previous round. Although Central avenged its loss to Ste. Genevieve, West County stole headlines with a sound 4-2 upset of current state No. 1 Potosi.
The Lady Bulldogs struggled early against Marler, who navigated past two runners in the fourth when Eaton caught a fly ball and doubled lead runner Jenna Simily off at second base.
Meinershagen was poised to get through her first inning unscathed after issuing a leadoff walk to Eaton, but a crucial miscue on a fly ball turned into two unearned runs.
Maddie Manion circled the bases and slid safely into home when her drive glanced off a glove as Makenzie Simily and Myers converged, and rolled far away toward the left-field corner.
Back-to-back doubles from Marler and McDowell made it 3-0 in the second. Meinershagen charged a bunt and made a tremendous lunging catch to turn a double play moments later.
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Abbie Mendenhall contributed a single and escaped an important rundown between second and third for the Lady Rebels, who will turn their attention toward the upcoming District 5 tournament.
Meinershagen paced the Lady Bulldogs at 3-for-4 overall. Watson singled twice, and Perkins was flawless on five defensive chances at third base.
West County has two home games remaining in its season against Ste. Genevieve and Bismarck.
Potosi 12, Ste. Genevieve 0
LEADWOOD – Dominant pitching by freshman lefty Sami Huck helped Potosi bounce back from its opening loss of the season in convincing fashion.
Sydney Litton and Chelsea Charboneau each walloped home runs, and the Lady Trojans blanked Ste. Genevieve 12-0 for third place in the MAAA Tournament.
Potosi (15-1) totaled six hits during the five-inning contest, and capitalized on three defensive errors while drawing five walks and three hit batsmen.
Huck overpowered the Dragons for 12 strikeouts, and retired 15 of 18 batters faced in a one-hitter. She fanned three in each of the first three frames.
Alyssa Huber opposed her in the circle, continuing her heavy workload this spring, but struggled with control just one day after throwing 154 pitches against Central.
A dropped throw on a fielder’s choice and wild pitch spotted Potosi a 2-0 lead after the bases become full without the benefit of a hit.
Six straight batters reached safely with one out in the third, and each of them eventually came around to touch the plate for a resulting 8-0 cushion.
Litton homered to left-center after Jaci Short singled to right. Hannah Jarvis added a single to the rally, and bases-loaded free passes gave RBI to Catie Mosier and Kennedy Coleman.
Huck punctuated the outburst with a two-run double to right. Two strong throws by Ste. Genevieve (12-6) cut down a third runner at home.
Shortstop Brittney Kreitler made a nice catch on a flare while ranging into the center-field grass as reliever Autumn Basler pitched an unblemished fourth for the Dragons.
But the Dragons could not threaten against Huck. Huber produced the lone hit leading off the top of the fourth, but was stranded at third on a strikeout.
Kylie Price made it 9-0 with an RBI double in the fifth, and Charboneau applied the final swing with a three-run shot to invoke the mercy rule.
Potosi totaled five home runs over the course of three tournament games.
Valle Catholic beat Bismarck 9-1 for fifth place, and Kingston doubled up Arcadia Valley 22-11 for seventh.