NEW MARKET – Southmont’s softball team earned a spot in the 2A Sectional 38 Championship game with a convincing 16-2 win over Clinton Prairie on Tuesday.
The Mounties move to 16-5 for the season, but in the win-or-go-home format of the postseason, they live to play one more game.
Playing on their home field, South scored in each of their four at-bats to quickly get the score into double-figures, and then get more than enough margin to end the game in five innings.
As has been the story for South’s success this season, there are many names that led to the win, as the Mounties look for their first sectional title since 2019.
The top of the batting order was ferocious, as the first four hitters reached base 12 times, and scored 11 runs.
But, as has been the story all season, it was also the bottom of the order that came up huge in a seven-run second inning that set the tone, as the Gophers season ends at 2-17-1.
“We hit the ball really, really hard,” Mounties coach Dan Taylor said. “Our hitters were very disciplined – we laid off the outside corner pitches and got after the pitches we wanted to hit. Up and down the order we handled at-bats well.”
Leadoff hitter Hanna Nichols reached base four times and scored four times. The senior also stole four bases, giving her a team, and Sagamore Conference best 30 thefts in 31 attempts.
Freshman Anna Stokes, whose hot bat at the end of the season turned into the best in the conference, drove in four runs, including a pair on a blast off the fence double.
Taylor Grino drove in three runs and scored a pair, lacing a pair of singles. Chelsea Veatch reached base three times, scored twice and drove in two. At the bottom of the order, Elizabeth Conkright had a pair of hits, scored once and drove one in, and Brady Spencer added a double in the big second inning that drove in a pair.
Macie Shirk doubled, then singled, then tripled, falling only a home run shy of the cycle. The senior scored three times and drove in two.
In addition, Shirk picked up the pitching win, starting and going the first two innings before giving way to Kyndale Rice, who went the last three.
Both pitchers struck out four, while Shirk didn’t allow a hit. Rice was tagged for four hits and the two CP runs.
Throwing 27 pitches in her two innings, Shirk got some work in front of the championship game tonight.
“We got ahead on the scoreboard and saved Macie,” Taylor said. “Both of our pitchers threw well tonight. It’s a little throwback to 2019 – we had a big win in the semifinals, and took our starting pitcher (Paige Knowling) out early. The freshman who came in to throw those relief innings was Macie Shirk. Today we had another freshman in Kyndale Rice come in.”
The Gophers got their two runs in the third inning on an infield single, a walk and a double by Bailey Floyd. They had only one other extra-base hit.
Maddie Cornell went the distance on the mound for CP and picked up the loss.
“Cornell beat us last year,” Taylor said of the Gophers senior. “She came in relief and beat us 10-8. She really works the corners hard and we did a good job staying off those pitches.”
Dara Watson also was back in the Southmont lineup, after missing a month with an injury.
“She had a big hit in that second inning,” Taylor said of the junior. “As we go forward, she can give us another power bat and get us a big hit. It’s good to have her back.”
Championship Game Matchup
The Mounties will take on Western Boone in the championship game, after the Stars defeated Seeger 8-0 in the second semifinal matchup.
The Stars record moves to 14-10 with the win, and the game between the two Sagamore Conference foes will be the third in less than two weeks. They each won on the road last week. The Mounties got a seventh-inning single off the bat of Conkright in a 1-0 win at WeBo. Shirk had the double in that last at-bat to set up the run, and pitched a complete game, allowing only hits and striking out nine.
WeBo returned the favor the next night at Southmont, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 win.
The Stars got two runs in the third inning Tuesday against Seeger, who drops to 20-6 as their season ends.
They added five more in the fifth, and one in the sixth to run away with the win. They finished with 13 hits, and were aided by five Patriots errors.
Gabriella Lewis pitched the entire game for the Stars, giving up five hits while striking out two and walking none. The Stars also turned in a couple defensive gems behind Lewis, who also had three hits to help her cause offensively. She scored twice, and is expected to pitch against South in the title game.
“Lewis is a very good pitcher,” Taylor said of the Stars sophomore, whom the Mounties saw in the win at Western Boone. “I’m expecting the game to be low scoring. Western Boone is a great program, and they took us out of the sectional last year. We have got to be disciplined at the plate and we will have to out-hit them.”
The two squads, who have had softball success through the years, will square off for the right to host a regional game next week.
“The atmosphere of a sectional championship is just something extra special,” Taylor said of the title tilt. “We are looking forward to playing WeBo for the championship.”
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