Truman High School softball coach Amy Temples isn't worried about a few gray hairs as her defending Class 4 state champion Patriots team reaches sectional play at 5 p.m. today at Adair Park.
“I'm more concerned about a heart attack,” Temples joked as the 27-3 Patriots prepared to take on 21-6 Staley, with the winner advancing to Saturday's quarterfinal play. “At this point of the season, you expect to see everyone's A game and that's certainly what we saw when we beat Liberty 1-0 (in eight innings in the Class 4 District 15 finals).”
Liberty coach Scott Howard walked Paige Parker each time she stepped to the plate, but the reigning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year still played a big role in the win by allowing just two hits and striking out 12.
“I don't let the frustration from hitting carry over to my pitching, and vice versa,” Parker said. “Liberty was a great team with great players. You always expect tough games at this time of the year, and we got one against Liberty.
“Early in the game, they got couple runners on and I needed to throws strikes, and my defense backed me up. After that I settled down and we got something going offensively in the eighth inning.”
Freshman Victoria Morrow opened the eighth inning with a double off the fence at Fort Osage High School. She was then bunted to third by Brooke VunCannon.
“I didn't want to get yelled at,” joked VunCannon, “so I made sure I got that bunt down to get a runner on third with just one out.”
After the next two Patriots were walked, Tori Zorich drove home Morrow with a single over shortstop.
“Brooke's bunt could be overlooked in that inning, and it was huge,” Temples said. “We expected them to walk our next two batters and then Tori got the big game-winning hit. That's what you have to do to keep playing.”
Ironically, the Patriots and Falcons have not met on the playing field this season.
“We were scheduled to play them, but it was rained out and wasn't rescheduled because it wasn't a conference game,” Temples explained. “I know they have a tough pitcher and a few good hitters. We're going to have to do all the little things we did to beat Liberty to beat Staley.”
Both VunCannon and Parker are excited the game is on the Patriots’ home field.
“We know Adair, we feel comfortable playing there, I'm really excited the game is at home,” VunCannon said.
Added Parker: “It's great that it's a 5 o'clock game because the kids can come from Truman after their practices and all the moms and dads and our friends can come. It's so exciting to still be playing.”
While the Patriots need two more wins to advance to the Final Four for the third time in the past four years, Parker said, a second state championship would be the perfect way to end her stellar career.
“All we're thinking about is Staley,” Parker said, “This team is really special. It's really awesome to have been able to share this with a team that is more like a family. We could not ask for better coaches, and we're all great friends. We have a great team dynamic. We are always there for each other.”
Temples believes her team is taking the right approach in postseason.
“We have kids with a lot of postseason experience,” Temples said. “This isn't their first rodeo, they know what it takes to win in the postseason and so far, they've found a way to keep winning.”