Before enjoying a postgame feast to celebrate Truman’s softball’s Senior Night at Adair Park, the Patriots did a little feasting at the plate against visiting Blue Springs South.
Truman’s first four batters recorded hits off South starter Erin Griesbauer, and three of them came around to score to give Paige Parker all the support she needed en route to an 8-1 win in the team’s final game at Adair. The Patriots tacked on four runs in the fourth inning and finished with 10 hits.
Parker, who is committed to play at Oklahoma next season, is one of six seniors who already have helped Truman (25-3) win four conference titles, three district and sectional titles, a state runner-up finish and last year’s state championship. Maya Coen, Kayla Harrell, Sara Jeffress, Emily VanCompernolle and Tori Zorich are Truman’s other seniors.
“It was a great night,” said Parker, who allowed four hits and a walk while striking out 12 in the circle and also went 3-for-4 at the plate. “It’s really special to have family and friends here and show support. Without them or our coaches, none of us would be here.”
“We were playing for us as seniors and playing for each other,” added Coen, Parker’s battery mate at catcher. “I think the girls knew how much this last game meant to us.”
Jeffress’ first-pitch double to right center plated leadoff hitter Brooke VunCannon with the Patriots’ first run, and Jeffress scored when Parker’s single to right was bobbled. Zorich later singled, moved up on a pair of fielder’s choices and scored on Kendra Amos’ groundout.
Truman coach Amy Temples said her team was more loose and energetic than Tuesday, when it needed a last-ditch rally to beat Park Hill South 3-2 at home.
“It was like night and day. We don’t play good tight,” she said. “When we loosened up we were swinging the bats early and moving people around. Those are kind of innings we had last year that made us so successful.”
Blue Springs South (15-11) wanted to ensure Parker wasn’t going to record all the outs herself and looked to bunt numerous times – with mixed results. Griesbauer started the game with a bunt single and Julia Woelbel got hit in the leg by a pitch. But Parker easily caught a pop-up bunt by Shannon Hughes and got a fly ball and strikeout to strand the runners.
After Griesbauer’s leadoff walk in the third, Hughes singled with one out and Mariah Bierman’s bunt fell behind the pitcher’s circle for an RBI single that made it 3-1.
Four other Jaguar bunt attempts throughout the game resulted in pop-up outs and two others with nobody on became groundouts.
“We were just trying to make their defense play a little bit,” South coach Kristi Williams said. “(Parker) is obviously a great pitcher, and we wanted to make sure their defense got us out.”
Truman got the run back in the bottom half after putting runners at second and third with no outs. Third baseman Bailey Autrey’s nifty tag-and-throw double play nearly got the Jaguars out of a jam, but an error allowed Zorich to score.
The Patriots loaded the bases without an out in the fourth, putting the game away when Parker clubbed a two-run double to the opposite fence in the left and Coen bounced a two-run single up the middle.
“She didn’t pitch bad; she got ground balls,” Williams said of Griesbauer. “They were finding holes. It was like, ‘Come on, can you just hit it 6 inches in either direction so we can make a play?’”
Megan Schwindler relieved Griesbauer for the fifth inning and retired all six batters she faced.
Meanwhile, Parker found her groove after Bierman’s single and retired all 14 batters after that, 10 of them by strikeout.
“I think we just settled down after that,” Parker said. “We had a great night offensively and a lot of energy.”
VunCannon and Zorich finished with two hits apiece for the Patriots.
“This was important on a lot of fronts,” Temples said. “Blue Springs South is a great program, and we needed to play a game like this before the (district) tournament.
“These six seniors have meant so much for this program. They’ve put us back on the map for softball. It’s been such an honor to coach them.”