Columbia Central lived to play another day with a 12-9 elimination-game softball victory Wednesday night over Independence in District 12-4A Tournament action at Ravenwood.
Scoring in six of their seven at-bats, the Lady Lions led by as many as eight runs but recorded the final out with the bases loaded – after intentionally walking Independence junior third baseman Ryan Brown to cut the margin to three.
“I was really hoping they wouldn’t do that,” said Brown, a Missouri commitment who was intentionally walked in each of her final two plate appearances after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning to cut into Columbia Central’s early 3-0 lead.
For the longest, that was the only blemish in Central’s performance, as the Lady Lions answered with seven runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth while getting six strikeouts from freshman pitcher Bailey Lovell.
In the bottom of the sixth, though, Lovell ran out of steam and Independence took advantage – scoring five runs to make it a 10-7 game.
“She battled,” Central coach Jon McDonald said. “She was tired coming in. She gutted it out, and ‘Wiggy’ (Kiraonte Buchanan) came in and gave us a few outs. That was huge. But (Lovell) has battled all year, and she was big for us tonight.”
Buchanan relieved Lovell and recorded the final two outs of the sixth, but did her most damage in the top of the seventh, giving her team a five-run cushion with a two-run homer. After issuing back-to-back walks in the bottom of the inning, Buchanan was lifted as Lovell returned to the circle. Independence scored twice on bases-loaded walks, with Brown drawing the second, before a Lady Eagle groundout ended the contest.
“We scored in all but one inning,” McDonald said. “It wasn’t one person or two people. We hit throughout the lineup. It all came together. I think they realized we are a good team, no matter how young we are. This game proved it.”
With four freshmen and four sophomores in the starting lineup, Columbia Central wound up with 16 hits – including a homer from their lone senior, La’Nija Seats, and four-hit efforts from Saviya Morgan and Addison Maurer at the top of the order.
“When she gets on, she’s in scoring position,” McDonald said of Morgan, who scored a pair of runs and drove in a couple along with two stolen bases. “She puts pressure on the defense. It’s huge when she gets on, and when we hit behind her, we tend to win games.”
Brown acknowledged Morgan was a game-changer.
“Their speed was something that intimidated us,” she said. “We know we could have won that game, but we’re such a young team. That’s something we’re going to have to work on in the offseason. We know next year we’ll go farther. We set a standard, and we’re only losing one senior. (Classmate) Leah Oubre and I will have to fill those shoes.”
Columbia Central will face Summit, which dropped a 2-1 decision to Nolensville in the early game Wednesday, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The top-seeded Lady Knights answered Saniya Hunter’s fourth-inning solo homer off Rylan Smith with a Paige Dickinson run-scoring base hit in the fifth, then walked off in the seventh with Addi Leichty’s single that scored Jaycee Bilbrey.
Columbia Central 12, Independence 9
C 201 322 2 – 12 16 1
I 002 005 2 – 9 7 4
Bailey Lovell, Kiraonte Buchanan (6), Lovell (7) and Addison Maurer. Brylie Waechter and Leah Oubre. W: Lovell. L: Waechter. HR: Columbia Central – La’Nija Seats, Buchanan; Independence – Ryan Brown.