LEADWOOD – The cancellation of high school sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few months prevented the Potosi softball team from chasing a return trip to the state final four.
But it also delayed the debut of an intriguing youth movement at West County, while robbing seniors Makenzie Simily, Chloe Young and Hannah Myers of their farewell varsity season.
With the intent to salvage at least a few more memories on the diamond and give their recent graduates one final sendoff, the MAAA rivals agreed to a two-game exhibition series.
West County assumed initial hosting honors on Tuesday evening, and turned in an unofficial outcome that could only be interpreted as optimistic.
Guided by the stellar pitching of Alexis Hedgcorth – who just completed the eighth grade – the Lady Bulldogs also utilized aggression on the base paths to secure a 6-0 victory.
Reese Smith belted a solo home run and Gracie Wright singled, doubled and scored twice as West County seized upon six errors by the Potosi defense.
Hedgcorth compiled nine strikeouts and walked two while going the distance on a 1-hitter, allowing a clean one-out single to Jaci Short during the second inning.
Her performance came against a lineup that featured seven returning players who brought home a third-place state plaque last year.
The Lady Trojans understandably lacked their usual sharp timing at the plate after a 14-month hiatus from live competition. Only two of their six runners reached scoring position.
West County was overpowered at times by Potosi hurler Sydney Litton, who generated 13 strikeouts without issuing a walk in five innings of work. But the home team fully maximized its six hits.
Jenna Simily opened the scoring with an RBI single before heading home on a throwing error for a 2-0 cushion in the first inning. Wright prompted that rally with an infield hit and stolen base.
Litton fanned eight Lady Bulldogs in a span of nine batters, but yielded an unearned run in the third inning on two more errors plus a wild pitch as Wright scored again.
Hedgcorth protected that lead by retiring 10 in a row after surrendering a walk to Kennedy Coleman, who will play for Mineral Area College next season.
Morgan Simily tracked down a shallow fly ball from Coleman during that string of outs, and made her presence known with speed along the base paths.
Smith parked a long drive over the left-field fence to begin the bottom of the fourth, and Hedgcorth followed with a ringing double.
Pinch-hitter Claire Stevens picked up an RBI on a ground out as Morgan Simily raced all the way from second base on contact and beat the throw home with a slide for a 5-0 lead.
Catcher Natalie Womack singled and Wright capped her productive game with an opposite-field RBI double in the fifth as Simily crossed for a second time as a courtesy runner.
Relaxed rules enabled teams to insert extra hitters, and West County batted in the bottom of the seventh despite already securing the win.
Emma Eaton threw two scoreless innings of relief for Potosi, fielding two slow rollers after Jacy Tongay got a late infield hit.
The rematch was planned for Wednesday in Potosi, although a threat of heavy rain was in the forecast.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!