OZARK, Mo. – It’s not so odd for the Blue Springs South softball team to be eating dinner together on a Saturday, but there was something special about the Jaguars’ trip to Lambert’s Café in Ozark Saturday.
South was celebrating a 5-1 win over Ozark in the Class 4 state quarterfinals and a trip to the state final four for the first time in school history.
“We’re all very close. We’re best friends on the field and off the field,” said senior shortstop Makenzie Musgrove, who was planning on ordering country fried steak. “You can find us every weekend hanging out, having team dinners, so I think that brings us together on the field, too.”
Blue Springs South (25-4) plays Washington (20-8) in a Class 4 state semifinal 2 p.m. Friday at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield. Lee’s Summit West (24-7), South's Suburban Big Seven conference rival, takes on Troy Buchanan (28-3) in the other semifinal and the Class 4 championship game is slated for 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m just so proud of them,” South coach Kristi Williams said. “It’s the best group of girls ever. They deserve it more than anybody else.”
And they certainly had to earn it. Junior Sydney Righi and Ozark’s Brooke Pridgen were locked in a pitcher’s duel before the Jaguars finally solved Pridgen in the top of the fifth inning. Aubrie Munoz singled and scored on a Madison Crosslin double to break a scoreless tie. Crosslin took home on a passed ball and Mackenzie Warmund’s double down the right-field line drove in Bailey Fowler for a 3-0 lead.
“It was very frustrating, obviously, the first few innings,” Musgrove said. “But we practiced off of (Pridgen’s) scouting report this week and as a team we all made adjustments. Her speed is different, but so is her spin. It took a while to get used to, but I think we did a good job.”
Crosslin’s sacrifice fly drove in Eden Tolliver to make it 4-0 before Ozark got in the board in the bottom of the sixth. The first three batters reached safely and Nya Morgan’s single drove in Morgan Doyle to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out.
But Righi was up to the challenge, recording three outs in a row to keep South in complete control. That was a welcome sight for Williams, who had to pull Righi from the Jaguars’ 8-5 district championship win over Columbia Rock Bridge on Oct. 8.
“She gave us a great game and finished it,” Williams said. “Righi is good and it was really nice to see her bounce back after a rough start.”
Righi scattered eight hits in picking up the win, striking out two Tigers and hitting one.
“My defense was really good. They were getting everything,” Righi said. “I know they’ll always have my back. This feels amazing. We’re really proud to represent the first girls sport at South to make it to the final four.”
Crosslin finished 2-for-3 at the plate, with a run scored and two RBIs, while Musgrove was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“They put pressure on us every inning,” Ozark coach Yancey Little said. “They’ve got good team speed and are able to do a little bit of everything. … It’s never fun losing, but I thought we lost to a better team today.”
Ozark is located just 15 minutes away from Killian Sports Complex, so another team dinner at Lambert’s isn’t out of the question. But first the Jaguars were ready to soak up their quarterfinal win.
“I’ve looked at this as a dream for my whole high school career,” Musgrove said. “I honestly never thought it would happen. I always thought we were good enough, but it’s very surreal that it’s actually happening and not just thinking about it.”
Added Williams: “People kind of put (final four expectations) on us early last summer. We’ve been talking about it a lot since then that we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We just had to go one game at a time, one inning at a time, one out at a time, one pitch at a time. They’ve done an amazing job with it. I can’t be any prouder of them than I am right now.”