Lady Owls use power to reach AMC finals

COLUMBIA — Emily Murphy and Kacey Scharnhorst served up the big shots, sending the William Woods University Lady Owls to the championship of the American Midwest Conference postseason softball tournament.

Murphy delivered a pair of solo home runs and Scharnhorst supplied a dramatic walk-off homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning as top-seeded William Woods clipped No. 4 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University 3-2 in semifinal play Thursday afternoon at Antimi Softball Complex.

Murphy — a sophomore right fielder — followed by hitting her third solo homer of the day and Scharnhorst, a junior first baseman, contributed a pair of RBI sacrifice flies to spark the 20th-ranked Lady Owls to a 6-3 victory over No. 3 seed Park University to advance to the title game.

William Woods (38-15) — winners of 12 in a row and a remarkable 21 of its last 22 — will play for the championship at 2 this afternoon. The Lady Owls will face the winner of an elimination game between No. 2 seed Columbia College (29-15) and Park (37-10), scheduled for noon.

If William Woods loses, it would play another game for the title at 4 p.m.

Murphy put the Lady Owls up 1-0 on Freed-Hardeman when she led off the bottom of the second inning with her first home run of the season to right-center on a 1-2 pitch. She then gave William Woods a two-run advantage in the sixth when she homered to left on another 1-2 count with one out.

The Lady Lions were able to force extra innings when they rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game. Third baseman Kamara Trice put Freed-Hardeman on the scoreboard with a leadoff homer and first baseman Natalie Nelson made it 2-2 when she doubled home the tying run with two outs.

The Lady Owls put the potential winning run on base in their half of the seventh when sophomore shortstop Shelby LeCuru doubled to left with one out. LeCuru moved to third on Scharnhorst’s groundout to first, but the inning ended when senior left fielder Lindsey LeCuru popped out to third.

The game remained even going to William Woods’ half of the ninth. Freshman Hannah Campbell opened the inning by flying out to left and Shelby LeCuru grounded out to third. Scharnhorst needed just one pitch to end it all with her only hit of the contest, ripping a shot over the fence in right to punctuate the Lady Owls’ thrilling win.

Murphy went 2-for-2 and Scharnhorst finished 1-for-4 as William Woods collected eight hits. Sophomore right fielder Sydnae Hatton was also 2-for-3.

Lady Owls senior starter MacKenzie Bowden turned in a stunning effort, striking out a career-high 16 to mark her complete-game victory. Bowden (19-7) allowed two earned runs on six hits and walked none.

William Woods quickly fell behind in the second game after Park produced a run in the bottom of the first. The Lady Owls, though, jumped in front with two runs in the top of the third on Scharnhorst’s RBI sacrifice fly and Lindsey LeCuru’s RBI single.

Scharnhorst made it 3-1 with another RBI sacrifice fly in the fourth and William Woods added a pair of runs in the fifth on Murphy’s leadoff homer and junior second baseman Sam Parsons’ RBI sacrifice fly. The Lady Pirates were able to close within 5-3 in their half of the fifth on shortstop Kim Breyfogle’s two-run homer, but the Lady Owls picked up a critical run in the seventh on junior catcher Macy Wierschem’s RBI single.

Murphy and Lindsey LeCuru were both 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored as William Woods finished with nine hits and capitalized on four Park errors. Wierschem was 1-for-2 with an RBI and scored once, while Parsons went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.

Senior starter Becca Schemmer gave up three earned runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings to post the victory for the Lady Owls. Schemmer (12-8) struck out two and issued a pair of walks. Bowden faced the final two batters — striking out both — to earn her second save of the season.

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