Forget soap operas or reality TV, the real drama was packed into the Class 4 District 12 softball championship on Saturday.
In a game with more ebbs-and-flows than you'll see on television, the Webb City Cardinals and McDonald County Mustangs squared off in a game that won't soon be forgotten by those in attendance. Though it seemed like the game would never end, the Lady Cardinals eventually came out on top in 10 innings, 7-6, and will advance to the state playoffs on Wednesday.
What a game.
At various points in the game the Lady Cardinals were down to their final two outs, and the Lady Mustangs were down to their final strike, but managed to prolong the game with timely hits.
Rewind to the top of the seventh inning where, with their season on life support, the Lady Cardinals, down to their final two outs, managed to tie the game in dramatic fashion. Kaitlin Beason, who was the starting pitcher for Webb City, started the rally with a single and went to third on a pair of wild pitches.
With Beason at third, Desirea Buerge walked and stole second to put the pressure on the Lady Mustangs. Morgan Lammey then rolled a single through the right side to score them both and give the Lady Cardinals a 6-5 lead. Like that, it was a new ballgame.
But the Lady Mustangs would not go quietly. They Kali Hodson singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh and eventually went to third on a passed ball. Then, down to their final strike with two outs, Macey Jones lined a double to center to tie the game at 6-6. Beason ended any further threat with a strikeout to send it to extra innings.
Hodson, pitching for McDonald County, thwarted another Webb City threat in the top of the ninth when Beason slugged a one-out double to left by striking out Buerge and getting a grounder to first to escape the jam.
However, Hodson wouldn't manage to escape the next threat. Emily Harris led off the Lady Cardinals' 10th with a double to the wall in left center, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a grounder to third for the decisive run.
The final sequence that led to the final run only seemed like the grand finale to the fireworks throughout the game. Meeting for the fourth time this season, the foes traded blows all afternoon.
Webb City (23-4) drew first blood with three runs on two Mustangs errors. Asia Bemo singled to lead off the frame and scored when Lacy Resa's grounder to second went through the legs of both the second baseman and right fielder and all the way to the wall. Resa went to third on the play and scored on a fielder's choice by Beason, who later made it 3-0 when she scored on a wild pitch.
Page 2 of 2 - McDonald County answered in the bottom of the inning when Ashton Harmon crushed a two-run homer to left center gap to make it 3-2. Webb City would add a run in the top of the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, but the Lady Mustangs would answer when Courtni Smith punched a two-run triple to left field and scored on a single by Harmon to give them a 5-4 advantage.
"Two teams going at it, two champions," Cardinals coach Walter Resa said. "I felt like both teams and both team's hearts were in it and neither one wanted to relinquish anything."
These teams were certainly familiar with each other, with Saturday marking the fourth time they've met this season. The Cardinals had taken two out of three in the season series.
"It was a battle," Mustangs coach Tray Shaddox said. "(Our team) had some opportunities to get down there, and they scratched and found a way to score some runs. I couldn't be any prouder of them.
"As much as (the loss) hurts, it doesn't diminish anything they've done this year. It was a great game. I've got to congratulate Walter and Webb City, because they played a great game."
Harmon and Smith finished with three hits apiece to lead the Lady Mustangs at the plate. Harmon had three RBI and Smith added two and scored two runs. Sierra Clay, Sarah Rickman and Hodson had two hits apiece. Hodson and Clay scored a run apiece. Kelsy Reynolds, Whitney Malone, Jones and Stormy Christerson had a hit apiece. Reynolds and Malone scored a run apiece.
Beason finished with two hits and scored twice. Bemo also had two hits.
The loss finished the Lady Mustangs at 20-4 this season. With three players graduating, Shaddox said expectations should again be high for McDonald County next season.
"We've got a good group coming back and that ought to make them feel pretty good about where we're going to start next year," Shaddox said. "We're going to miss those three (seniors). They all made big contributions for us this year."
Hodson struck out six in the complete game effort on the mound.
"Kali, I was proud of her coming in and pitching like she did," Shaddox said. "She made some adjustments today and I'm proud of the effort she had on the mound."