Neosho softball advances to Region VI Div. II District D Championship

John Giffin/Tribune

Neosho County Community College pitcher Lexie Heiniger winds up for a pitch in the Panthers' win against Hutchinson Community College Saturday at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka. 

Panthers score five runs in sixth inning of semifinal

John Giffin

Sports editor

Finishing day one of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region VI Div. II District D Tournament 2-0, the No. 5 seed Neosho County Community College softball team earned a spot in the championship game at noon Sunday.

The Panthers defeated Murray State in the quarterfinal 9-0 after five innings and held off No. 6 Hutchinson Community College in the semifinal 7-4.

Against Hutch, the Panthers scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 7-2 advantage. The scoring in the inning was started by a Taylor Pence inside-the-park-homerun that scored Katelyn Shepard, who was pinch running for Anna Crawford.

"I kept fouling them off and she kept throwing me outside," Pence said. "I was waiting for her to throw one over the plate because I was going to hit it hard. When I hit it I saw it going past her. I thought 'I better run really, really fast.' I did. I rounded third and I thought they had already got it in and Coach A kept giving me the go sign. When I looked I was like 'yeah let's go.'"

The inning was crucial to the Panthers, who were matching runs with the Blue Dragons until that point.

"It was huge," Panther Head Softball Coach Kim Alexander said. "We definitely needed to score some runs going into the seventh. We had to roll stuff up in some huge situations. Anna Crawford hit the ball well. Pence came up huge right there with an in the park homerun. Then we followed back with Tia Parker getting a triple. Definitely got some confidence going into that seventh inning."

Hutchinson scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh with a one out, would-have-been-three run homerun. Dragon baserunners crossed on the trot and were called out. Two of the runs scored on the homerun, the third run was called out. The Panther lead was narrowed to 7-4 on the homer.

"Huge break," Alexander said. "It would have been 7-5 with one out."

Lexie Heiniger struck out five in the complete game, nine hit, four run performance.

Crawford was 3-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored. Taylor Bolden was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Pence was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and run scored on the inside-the-park-homerun. Becki Hendrickson drove in a run and went 1-for-3 at the plate.

In the quarterfinal game, the Panthers took care of business early against Murray State. Neosho scored five runs in the first and three runs in the second.

Meaghan Thompson pitched a complete game, two hit, shutout. She struck out five.

Karolyna Gomez and Hendrickson were 2-for-3 with a run scored. Thompson drove in two runs and went 1-for-3 at the plate. Crawford was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Tiara Ewy went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Bolden batted 1-for-2 with a RBI and a run scored.

Neosho will play the winner of the loser semifinal match up between Labette Community College and Hutchinson. The Blue Dragons upset the No. 2 seed Labette in the quarterfinal. Labette beat Murray State 14-0 to avoid elimination in the double elimination tournament.

"I think we're going to get one tomorrow," Alexander said. "We have to get beat twice, but I think we can do it in one."

"It's bigger than anything I've ever been in," Pence said. "So I'm excited to be with these girls and go through this experience with the sophomores because I won't be with them next year."

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