Several times this season the Centralia varsity softball team, 20-7 overall, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat simply by imposing its will and refusing to lose.
While that made facing the Lady Panthers a rather daunting task, add to that the pressure of the Class 2, District 8, championship and the fact that the game was at Centralia on Monday and this was obviously going to be the biggest challenge North Callaway, 20-5 overall, had faced all year.
Complicating this issue even further were the memories of the Ladybirds losing to Centralia 10-0 on Sept. 23, so after the Lady Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, coming back to win 5-2 is an accomplishment North Callaway won't soon forget.
"We did a great job of putting the ball in play," said coach Brandi Thomsen. "This was one of the three goals we set at the start of the season along with winning the Eastern Missouri Conference in the regular season and the league tournament."
The tide didn't truly turn in the Ladybird's favor until the third inning when Hannah Knipp hit a three-run homerun to left centerfield to take a 3-1 lead. Centralia did make it a one-run game by scoring in the fifth, but North Callaway countered by charting a run each in the sixth and seventh to lock down the decision.
One individual who'll be cherishing these moments for some time to come for the Ladybirds is Kenzie Ausfahl based on earning the complete-game victory by allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. She also went 2-for-4 with a seventh-inning RBI, Hannah Knipp came in at 1-for-3 with three RBI and a run and Cameron Knipp was 1-for-3 with one RBI.
While nine of North Callaway's 10 hits were singles, it did have eight players that had hits, including Ellie Eckert, who had a hit, a run and a sacrifice bunt in two at-bats, Heather Thurman entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh and went 1-for-1 with a run and Lanie Wilson was 1-for-4 with two runs and a steal.
"We couldn't seem to string together any hits and when we made contact. We hit it right at someone," said Centralia coach Jill Angell. "North Callaway did a really good job defensively, and Ausfahl pitched a great game."
Arguing the Lady Panther's cause with a hit each were Katelyn Rakers, Carter Simkins, Jaymi Freeman and Emily Greene and getting stuck with the decision was pitcher Gwendolyn Bostick after giving up nine hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
The Ladybird's next play at Palmyra on Wednesday at 5 p.m.