Jenna Belcher tags out Joplin’s Liz Snider, who was trying to steal third base. Snider was one of three Joplin runners thrown out trying to steal a base by Republic catcher Ella Tattershall.

Clutch Hitting and Defense Key Republic District Victory

Down 2-0 after 1/2 inning. No problem.

Down 6-4 after 5 1/2 innings. No problem.

Republic played like a team that expects to win big games, overcoming two two-run deficits for a 6-4 win over underdog Joplin in the district quarterfinals at Nixa Tuesday.

Joplin, seeded sixth in the district, had third-seeded Republic on the ropes for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, the Eagles led for most of the game until Republic scored two late runs to fight off the upset. Tuesday night, it was more of the same.

After Joplin scored twice in the top of the first inning, Jenna Belcher quickly delivered the message that the Lady Tigers would not go quietly. Belcher crushed a home run over the left field fence, hitting the roof of a storage building well beyond the wall. Her leadoff homer cut the lead in half and lit a new spark for Republic.

The Lady Tigers tied the game in the third on an RBI single by Megan Heavin that scored Cass Ellison. Ellison was running for Mara Lakey, who was on base four times and had singled earlier in the inning.

Joplin scored two more runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead, and Eagles pitcher Jill McDaniel pitched around a base hit to help Joplin carry a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning.

The Eagles had a chance to add an insurance run, but wasted a leadoff triple. Joplin tried to squeeze home the runner, but Republic third baseman Addison Walker shoveled the ball to catcher Ella Tattershall, who applied the tag to keep the lead at two runs.

In the bottom of the sixth, Republic took advantage of three Joplin errors to take its first lead of the night. Belcher doubled home a run after Megan Heavin and Walker had both reached on errors. Jaci West grounded back to the pitcher, but Joplin allowed Walker to score by throwing to the wrong base. After Joplin walked Lakey intentionally to load the bases, EmmaLee Essary gave Republic the lead with a two-run, bases-loaded double of the base of the left field fence.

In the bottom of the inning, Joplin put two runners on base but failed to score.

Lakey had three base hits for Republic, in addition to being the winning pitcher. Belcher had a double and a home run. Megan Heavin also had two base hits and drove in a run.

The defense also came up big. Tattershall threw out three runners trying to steal. Gracie Woods made a running shoestring catch in left field. Heavin made a diving catch in right. And Essary had a diving stab of a line drive in the top of the seventh to help snuff out Joplin’s final rally.

Republic improves to 16-10. The Lady Tigers advance to play second-seeded Ozark tomorrow. Ozark beat Glendale 9-3 to earn a spot in the semifinals.

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