When you have a pair of three-win teams squaring off to open Class 1, District 8, varsity softball competition like Community R-6 did last Thursday when it hosted Paris vs Wellsville-Middletown, anything can happen.
What followed was a struggle between two programs that really wanted to prove its season was a success based on this victory between first-year head coaches. Because of this the lead went back-and-forth all night until the Lady Coyotes scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning and then held the Lady Tigers scoreless in the seventh to come out on top 7-6.
"We just kept battling. We finally got some hits to fall and we were executing bunts when we needed to," said Paris coach Collin Huffman. "Cleaning the defense up when it mattered was the difference for us. That's why we came out on top. (Our starting pitcher) Gracie (Hatton), I've tasked her with a lot this year as a freshman. She's been up to it. I know it's hard for her, the mental part of the game, because it's an adjustment, but she did a great job. She battled and got in that zone."
For Paris its final rally in the sixth kicked off with a one-out triple by Delaney Miller, who then scored on a double from Erin Heinecke. After a Mollie Cupp single for the Lady Coyotes to put runners on first and third, Emma Addie bunted and the end result was Heinecke was picked off at third for the second out of the inning. But, just when all seemed lost, Danielle Anderson hit a double to left that not only drove home Miller and Addie, also put Paris up 7-6 heading into the seventh.
"I know this cold weather is tough on all of them because everything has been hot lately. This is definitely different, but I thought Hatton did an excellent job, especially being in the zone late when we needed her to be," Huffman said. "Also, the defense backing her up. What I talked to the girls about afyter the game was that they should enjoy this victory while they can because only half of the task is complete. We still have to play Silex later tonight to get into the championship game on Friday."
The game had been tied at 4-4 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but that was about to change after Wellsville-Middletown's Bekah Sewell hit a single to right field and took second when the outfielder misplayed the ball. Next up was Jacey Sewell, who drew a walk, so when Brooke Peckham singled to right field that allowed both those runners to score and put the Lady Tigers in the drivers seat 6-4.
"The difference todasy for us was that we made some mistakes. We had a freshman playing right field who has limited time there," said Wellsville-Middletown coach Levi Jacyna. "When other teams make less mistakes than you, usually they come out on top and that's what happened today."
Just one inning earlier in the bottom of the third Wellsville-Middletown was trailing 4-2 when Sewell led of the stanza with a solo homerun to cut that lead in half. Peckham's on-base experience for the Lady Tigers after hitting a double to right field was actually rather unique as she took third base on a wild pitch and then scored on a passed ball by the Paris catcher that tied the game at 4-4.
"Overall this year I thought we did pretty well. There are things I wish I would have done differently as a head coach," Jacyna said. "I know there are a lot of things we've got to work on for next year, for sure. It's been a really good season and I've really enjoyed my first year."
For the season Wellsville-Middletown was 3-20 overall, 1-9 Eastern Missouri Conference.
In its second game of the evening, which didn't begin until just before 9 p.m., Paris was defeated by Silex 16-1. Silex and Clopton were slated to play for the district title Friday, but if weather was an issue the contest was to be rescheduled for Saturday.
Something Huffman said after defeating Wellsville-Middletown is that he planned to pitch Addie instead of Hatton against Silex not only because the latter is an upper classmen, but the weather was a deciding factor, as well.