Republic’s late-season softball resurgence came to a disappointing end in the district semifinals Saturday, when Nixa overcame an early three-run deficit to win 5-4 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Republic out-hit Nixa 10-6 and committed just one fielding error to Nixa’s three, but missed a couple of opportunities to add to its run total leaving the door open for Nixa’s comeback.
“We played really well. We played hard, we played fast, we outplayed Nixa in every aspect of the game except for the score tonight. We just came up on the short end of the stick,” said coach Lee Dishman. “Our girls played with pride and showed a lot of resilience throughout the season. And it showed tonight — we should have won that game, but sometimes things happen.”
Republic batted first on its home field because it was the lower seed in the district tournament. The Lady Tigers sprinted out of the gate with an early lead, and it was Jenna Belcher doing a lot of the sprinting. She singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on an error to give Republic the lead in the top of the first inning. A sacrifice fly later in the inning by Annabelle Gerhardt-Hobbs made it 2-0. The Lady Tigers added another run in the second inning, thanks to a triple by Belcher and a Nixa error.
Nixa scored a single run in the bottom of the second to make the score 3-1, but Republic regained its three-run lead in the top of the fifth, when Sammi Watson drove in a run. The inning ended when Nixa left fielder Grace West threw out Emma Hoodenpyle at home plate, leaving the score 4-1.
Nixa tied the score with a three-run fifth inning. A walk, a hit batter, and two straight singles cut Republic’s lead to 4-3, and a sacrifice fly tied the score off Republic starter Piper Dishman. After the leadoff hitter reached base in the sixth, Kara Goeke came in to relieve Dishman and work out of trouble.
In the seventh, Paige Garetson walked leading off, and Rylee Harper worked a nine-pitch walk to put runners at first and second. After Goeke struck out the next batter, Jordan Phillips singled home the winning run to end the game.
The loss ends Republic’s season with a 19-14 record. It was a year of perseverance for the Lady Tigers, who struggled through the mid-season loss of senior shortstop Jenna Belcher, but turned things around, then welcomed her back to the lineup for the home stretch.
“When Jenna went out with her injury, she’s our vocal leader. And it kind of shell-shocked our girls and they were lost for a little bit. But they kept pushing,” Dishman said. “Then she came back, and it gave us an extra spark. And it showed how our team has grown; the culture of our program’s really good right now.”
The game is also the last in a Republic uniform for seniors Belcher, Ali Poulson, and Gracie Woods.
“We’ve had three great seniors all year. Ali Poulson’s a great kid. She led in the dugout all the time, and she was a very vocal leader. And then you’ve got Gracie and Jenna, who… are some of the really good female athletes in this school. And they just produced over and over. And I couldn’t be more proud of my three seniors.”
Nixa improves to 22-10 and will play Willard for the district championship.