SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The championship pedigree of Valle Catholic athletics has expanded by one more sport and untold priceless memories.
The Lady Warriors executed in all three phases at crucial and riveting moments on Tuesday to secure the first state title in softball program history.
After jubilant team members untangled from a pile on the infield dirt, the coveted trophy was handed to infielders Macy Wolk and Emily Flieg, the only two seniors – now graduates – on the roster.
“That was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” said Wolk, who has also been part of two final four volleyball teams. “We have never made it this far in softball. For me and Emily to go out and get the trophy was amazing.”
Valle Catholic prevailed 2-1 in nine innings over Concordia in the MSHSAA Class 1 spring final at Killian Sports Complex, following a go-ahead rally sparked by the bottom of its lineup.
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Sophomore center fielder Addi Donze split the right-center alley with a tiebreaking double against Olivia Hemme after catcher and No. 8 batter Nicole Gegg lined a one-out single to center.
“One of my coaches honestly came up to me right before that hit and goes, ‘Hey, can you get me a good hit right down the center, between those two players, and make it down to second base to bring that run home?” Donze said. “I said, ‘Yes, Sir. I can try my best.’ And I did it for him. I think we all worked really hard to get this far, and I’m really proud of all of us.”
Hemme fielded a bases-loaded comebacker to start a smooth double play and keep the margin at one run, but the Orioles could not generate a response in the bottom of the ninth.
Shortstop Ade Weiler backhanded a sharp ground ball on a short hop to retire the leadoff batter, and Flieg corralled the final out of a 1-2-3 frame on the 111th pitch thrown by Abree Zipprich.
Valle Catholic (20-3) became the first softball program to win it all from a formidable MAAA conference that has been represented in state finals by West County, Potosi and Central since 2018.
“I’ve said all along that 1 through 9, we’re pretty solid,” Valle Catholic head coach Kurt Basler said. “The bottom of the lineup came through for us. And when you can play games with only one error, you’ll win most of them.”
Kelsey Blum and Weiler registered two singles each, and the Lady Warriors received at least one hit from seven different players to support a seemingly unflappable Zipprich.
The sophomore right-hander was simply extraordinary on the big stage, first throwing a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts while also hitting a three-run homer against Ellington on Monday.
Zipprich followed that performance by fanning 14 and allowing three hits and no walks to a Concordia (27-2) squad that blitzed through Jasper 10-0 in the semifinal round.
She mowed down the top of the order on strikes in the sixth inning, and escaped the seventh with the potential winning run aboard as Weiler made a calm fielding play and strong throw.
“It’s funny because the harder they hit the ball toward me, the more confident I feel.” Weiler said. “The slower it is, the more time I have to think about it and maybe mess it up.”
Basler, who surpassed 100 career victories in Springfield, faced a difficult decision after resting injured junior Makayla Joggerst for the semifinal game.
Joggerst lobbied for a start, and was inserted into the clean-up spot as the designated player exactly one week after spraining her knee during the 3-2 quarterfinal win over Risco.
Wolk punched a two-out single through the right side, and Joggerst instantly rendered a positive impact with her RBI double beyond the right fielder for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
“Best coaching move ever, wasn’t it?” Basler joked. “She told me yesterday that she was ready to play. I told her ‘I really don’t want to play you today. Let’s give it another day of rest. It’s been getting better every day.’ She said again today that she was ready.
“Macy has batted fourth all year long. But I felt that if we put her in the 3 spot, then Makayla could drive her in with less chance of clogging up the bases. She struggled later on, but got that big hit when we needed it.”
The Orioles countered with one mighty swing in the second, as first baseman Kyia Inman belted a solo home run over the center-field fence.
It was the first hit allowed by Zipprich in more than 10 innings of playoff action. The next was a leadoff double by Hemme that narrowly eluded the glove of a backtracking Donze in the fourth.
Zipprich came back to strike out the next two batters, but Hemme applied extra pressure with a brilliant read as she bolted to steal third once Zipprich received the return throw to the circle and paused.
Valle Catholic flirted with danger by choosing to face Inman with two bases open, but escaped with the game still even after a blistered line drive carried far enough for Donze to make a sensational sliding catch.
“I did not think I had that ball until I opened my eyes,” Donze said. “That was the best catch of my life, and I was so excited.”
Inman finished 2-for-3 and singled in the seventh on a drive that left fielder Lauren Wolk alertly stopped before reaching the corner. The Orioles produced just four base runners overall.
Concordia enjoyed a 17-0 start to the season, and suffered its only losses to eventual champions. Mount Vernon, which snapped that win streak in April, topped West County for the Class 2 crown Tuesday.
Valle Catholic outhit the Orioles 9-3 overall, and coaxed four free passes from Hemme, who amassed 17 impressive strikeouts amid 175 total pitches.
“Everybody was told to follow the word discipline,” Macy Wolk said. “We all tried to hang off the high pitches, and knew that we had to hit our pitches to be successful.”
The Lady Warriors came up empty after Aubrey Wolk walked and Blum singled with two outs in the fourth, and again after Weiler singled on a 0-2 pitch and Zipprich walked with one out in the fifth.
Zipprich reached base four consecutive times on a single and three walks. Her season concluded with a batting average above .500 and ERA well below 1.
While a significant majority of Valle Catholic state titles are linked to the boys’ football and baseball programs, the 28th all-time belongs to the ladies.
“I think we came here in with our minds clear and ready to do this,” Weiler said. “It shows that girls at Valle can do more than just volleyball.”