For the first four innings, it seemed like the district semifinal was going to be one of those games that went back-and-forth all night and came down to the final out. But a seven-run fifth inning by the Lady Tigers broke the game open and lifted them to a 12-4 win over Neosho.
The big blow of the night came a couple of innings before the seven-run rally. With Republic trailing 2-0, Mara Lakey slugged a three-run homer over the right field fence to give Republic at 3-2 lead. It energized the Lady Tigers and set up the heroics that followed later in the game.
For Lakey, the home run was the fulfillment of a promise she’d made to a teammate earlier in the night.
“As soon as I hit it, I literally jumped getting out of the batter’s box, because before the game, I told Jessie Jones that I was going to hit a home run for her tonight, because she’s been out the whole season,” she said. “I was rounding the bases, I was so excited, I was like, ‘Where’s Jessie? Where’s Jessie?'”
Avery Romans overcame a shaky start to settle down and pitch a complete game. She said Lakey’s home run was a big part of that.
“I had a lot of trust in our offense coming back. Two runs isn’t a lot, and I knew our offense could come back,” she said. “Mara had the big hit in the bottom of the third, hitting that home run, and that boosted our confidence a lot, especially in the circle for me.”
Republic’s offense hit high gear in the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Lady Tigers scored seven runs to take control. They added one run in the sixth inning to grab an eight-run lead and end the game early.
Republic advances to the district championship game to play Webb City. The Cardinals beat the Lady Tigers during the regular season, but a year ago at playoff time, Republic beat Webb City for the district championship with a comeback, walk-off win. The district championship game is set to begin at 5:00 PM Friday evening.