MOKANE — South Callaway feels like it can count on everybody going into districts today after scoring a season-high 17 runs Monday against Van-Far in the regular season finale.
The Lady Bulldogs propelled themselves to a 17-7 victory, thanks to a pair of six-run innings — one that gave them an early lead in the first and one that clinched the win in the sixth — ending the game via run-rule with only one out in the inning and giving them a rebound win after striking out a season-high 17 times in Friday's 5-1 loss to Class 3 state-ranked Fatima.
Head coach Rusty Creed said the team was motivated Monday not only after its tough loss Friday but also after being on the losing end of many close games this season. The Fatima loss moved South Callaway (9-10) to 4-8 in games decided by four runs or less. While there was some challenge in preparation with the game being delayed more than a half hour because of rain, he said the Lady Bulldogs proved they were ready with their approaches at the plate and aggressive baserunning.
"We had a lot of tough games and have faced a lot of adversity, and I think we've learned from that and have built from that," Creed said. "We really wanted to come out tonight and prove to ourselves we are ready for districts. The rain changed our whole pregame routine as we didn't get to do our normal warmup, and I think they took that on as a challenge and met that challenge."
After Van-Far (9-12) set the table for its own big inning in the first after loading the bases with one out, South Callaway pulled the cloth right out from under the Lady Indians, forcing out a runner at home for the second out. The Lady Bulldogs didn't squander this momentum in their half of the frame.
Van-Far pitcher Mara Jensen jumped into hot water by walking some batters, after two Lady Bulldogs had already scored, and those runners scored on wild pitches. Stepping to the plate then was Avarie Musgrove, who was a key performer Monday along with a couple other seniors, Creed said. She drove in both of her RBI of her 2-for-3 day to give South Callaway the early 6-0 lead.
The Lady Indians had their own big inning in the third, scoring six on three RBI hits and having 12 come to the plate. Before that in the second, South Callaway had some clutch baserunning after freshman McKenzie Laughlin hit a sacrifice fly as senior Grace Pontius advanced to third only to be caught in a rundown. She survived the encounter to keep the outs at two and scored soon after on a wild pitch to make it 8-0 at the time, giving South Callaway the winning run.
Pontius — 3-for-3 with one RBI — made a smart baserunning play, even though she would have been safe after running into the fielder near third, Creed said. She still slid in ahead of the tag at third and stayed in the rundown to allow junior Alaney Miller to advance to second after she reached first after a strikeout that wasn't completed by Van-Far with the runner at third threatening to score. Just like South Callaway received some hitting up and down the lineup Monday, Creed said the team also had good baserunning all around.
"In that rundown, (Pontius) had some good instincts on it and actually ran into a fielder so she was going to be safe no matter what happened but really stayed in it," Creed said. "She is a very heads-up baserunner."
South Callaway carried an 11-7 lead going into the sixth, where the Lady Bulldogs decided the game had gone on long enough. Eight more Lady Bulldogs dug in and six of them hit their way on, including freshman Haley White — 2-for-3 with three RBI — and senior Kamryn Kraft — 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Jensen allowed eight unearned runs due to two errors and surrendered 14 hits. Laughlin allowed nine hits, seven runs (six earned) and four walks while strikeout out four and settling down after a six-run third.
With a performance like this under South Callaway's belt, Creed said the team should be primed for what he expects to be another tough game at 4:30 p.m. against Salisbury (12-9) in Harrisburg in the first round of the Class 2 District 3 Tournament. He said the Lady Bulldogs are evenly matched with the Lady Panthers, so South Callaway needs everybody to be sharp as they were Monday.
"Salisbury is a good team who is well-coached," Creed said. "From everything I can find out, it's going to be the biggest game of the year for us, of course in terms of importance. I think we are a comparable team to them, and we're just going to go out and try to throw the first punch and see what happens."