It took two extra innings for the Truman High School offense to catch up to Paige Parker Wednesday.
With Parker pitching a no-hitter, the Patriots finally pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth inning to claim a hold-your-breath 2-0 victory over Staley in Class 4 sectional playoff action at Adair Park.
Parker then got the final three outs to preserve her sixth no-hitter and 17th shutout of the season and send the Patriots into Saturday’s state quarterfinals.
“There was no way Staley was going to score in the ninth after the girls got us those two runs in the top of the inning,” said Parker, who was 23-1 with 333 strikeouts and had an earned run average of 0.28 entering the game. “My team did so much to help me today. They played great defense and we had a lot of runners on base, we just couldn't find the hole (for a base hit). We found the hole in the ninth inning.”
Truman had stranded 11 base runners through the first eight innings before Brooke VunCannon led off the ninth with a single. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Maya Coen's RBI single.
After Parker was intentionally walked for the fifth time in the game, Sara Jeffress lined an RBI double to right center to make the score 2-0 and give Parker a bit of breathing room as she took the mound in the bottom of the ninth.
Truman (28-3), the defending state champion, will play Saturday at Lee's Summit (21-6), a 5-4 winner in 11 innings over Raymore-Peculiar, at a time and place to be determined for a spot in the final four.
VunCannon said the team savors the chance to score big runs for Parker, especially since she has been walked nine times in her last two games.
“I don't personally see it as pressure when opponents walk Paige,” VunCannon said. “I just see it as an opportunity for other girls on the team to come up with some big hits, and that's what Maya and Sara did in the ninth inning.”
When Coen drove home the first run of the game, the senior catcher raised both arms on second base and celebrated.
“I felt good,” Coen said. “I've gotten some big hits this season, but that was the biggest. I'd been struggling at the plate and it felt good to drive home the first run. We knew one run would be big, but when Sara drove me in, that was big too.”
Jeffress, who made a base-running gaffe earlier in the game and got thrown out at third base, was pleased she was able to redeem herself with the ninth-inning double.
“When I ran into that out at third, I just wasn't thinking,” Jeffress said. “It felt so good to get that hit and drive in that run. There was a lot of adrenaline pumping during the game, and when we won, it was just the greatest feeling.”
Truman coach Amy Temples was a bit disappointed that her Patriots could not push a run across until the top of the ninth inning, but she lavished praise on the overall effort of each team.
“Staley is a good team, and that was a great, great game,” Temples said. “Paige was Paige, and we finally got some big hits in the ninth. We were able to overcome a few running mistakes – and we left far too many runners on base – but I was happy with the effort. It's great to be able to play another day with a special group of girls.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC