The Oak Grove softball team already had made it further in the state tournament than any other Panther squad before it, but it had a chance to go to the Class 3 state semifinals in the final inning Saturday.
It was 3-2 Smithville, and Oak Grove had a runner at second base with two outs and Bailee Martin at the plate. She got the end of her bat to make contact with the pitch, but the soft line drive landed in the glove of second baseman Katie Bean and the Panthers’ season ended with a 3-2 loss at Smithville High School.
After scoring 10 runs in the state sectionals against Chillicothe, the high-powered Oak Grove offense was not able to get the big hit when needed Saturday. It did not get the leadoff hitter on in any of the seven innings, which was costly, Panthers head coach Terry Parker said.
“I couldn’t have asked for more. We had a chance to win the game at the end,” Parker said after his team finished 24-7. “They just battled back. Early on in the game, I didn’t know if it was jitters or what, but we couldn’t string hits together. It seemed like when we did, we had one or two outs and we weren’t able to get our leadoff on.”
It was only the fifth time all year that Parker’s squad has scored less than three runs and the offense took a little while to get going.
The Warriors went up by two in the first when Lexi Duncan hit a fielder’s choice to first base. The throw home was not in time to get Bean at home, which made it 1-0. Lauren Bays then singled past Panthers shortstop Summer Collier to plate another run.
Duncan, the Warriors’ starter, scattered seven hits across seven innings and never really allowed the Oak Grove to get its bats going. In the third, Tatum Dunham stroked an RBI single up the middle to score Cheyenne Minnick from third. Martin tried to tie the game by scoring from second but center fielder Emilee Denton threw a laser to home plate and Martin was tagged out.
The Warriors added an insurance run in the fifth when Bean drilled a one-out triple down the right-field line and Duncan singled up the middle to bring her home.
Oak Grove threatened one more time in the seventh. Emily Wilson got a one-out single to sneak through the left side and Maddie Wycoff doubled to right to give the Panthers a chance. Minnick hit a sacrifice fly to center field before Martin made the final out.
Despite the loss, Parker reminded his team that it was the first to make it to the state quarterfinals and that would lead to more students wanting to join the program.
“I’m proud of what these girls have done this season and what they have done for this program,” Parker said. “The last two years we’ve had 24 wins which is the most in program history. These girls have left a lasting impression on this program.”