Rivalry games can take on many shapes and sizes – thrillers, blowouts and unexpected twists and turns that can create the type of atmosphere that makes them special.
The first time the Blue Springs and Blue Springs South softball teams met this season, the Wildcats got out to a 6-1 lead at South, only to see the Jaguars roar back to claim a 17-6 mercy-rule victory.
"I think that was in the back of our girls' minds today," Wildcats coach Jim Brandner said after his Blue Springs team claimed a 15-4 mercy-rule victory when Payton Minnis slammed a three-run, walk-off inside-the-park homer to end it early in six innings. "It's a big win for our girls. This is a game we needed."
For three innings, it was anything but a rout as the Wildcats scored three in the bottom of the first inning, then coach Kristi Williams' Jaguars clawed their way back with a three-run third inning.
"At that time, we're confident and feel like it's going to be a close game," Williams said after the Jaguars fell to 17-7 and 4-4. "But they got a lot of big hits – hits with runners in scoring position – and we made some errors that didn't help. Anytime you give a team extra outs, it hurts."
Taylor Snead, Reggie Kanagawa and Bella Andrews had RBI hits in the first inning for Blue Springs, while Kailee Odegard, Haley Woolf and Abby Sciara drove home runs for the Jaguars in the third inning.
The rest of the night belonged to the Wildcats (13-6, 5-3).
"We needed to get going, we needed that big hit, and we got it from Savannah," Brandner said, referring to Savannah Maynard's bases-loaded triple in the bottom of a four-run third inning. "They came back and tied the game and it was big that we score some runs and got the lead back."
With that 7-4 lead, Kanagawa cruised through the rest of the game, allowing just one run and three hits over the final three innings.
"I still remember the first time we played them (this year) and it was awful," said Kanagawa, who saw her 6-1 lead evaporate in that loss. "We really wanted to win this game. It was big when we came back and took that 7-4 lead in the third inning after they tied the game (3-3). Savannah's hit was huge. We were all so excited when she got that hit."
Maynard, who admitted she had been struggling at the plate, picked the perfect time to collect the big hit.
"All I've been hitting have been ground balls and I wanted to get a big hit, and was able to get it tonight," said Maynard, who finished the game with a triple, single, four RBIs and a sacrifice bunt. "I just told myself I was going to wait until I got the pitch I liked and when I did, I hit it pretty good."
But the Wildcats were far from finished.
Audrey Corona doubled to lead off the fourth inning and Kanagawa drove her in with a single to center. Andrews followed with a base hit. Hallie Walls had an RBI single, Andrews stole home on the front end of a double steal and Maynard drove her home with a single.
The Jaguars got their offense going in the top of the fifth inning when Aubrie Munoz singled and went to third on Odegard's single.
Kanagawa then speared a ground ball off the bat of Woolf that hit her knee, her glove and wound up wedged in her left arm. She was able to nip Woolf at first base.
Sophomore catcher Laney Anderson then turned in what Brandner called "the defensive play of the game." Addie Lightner hit an infield grounder and Munoz came home to score. Odegard also tried to score, but got caught in a rundown and Andrews' throw home to Anderson nailed her at the plate.
"That was huge!" Brandner said. "Laney is just a sophomore and she showed so much guts on that play. Gutsy! Gutsy! Gutsy! If we don't get that runner, it's 11-6 and anything can happen."
The Wildcats added a single run in the fifth on Kanagawa's RBI single and ended it in the sixth on Minnis' three-run homer that hit off the fence in deep right-center field.
"I really wanted to get that hit because they were playing me so shallow," said Minnis, who finished with a single, three-run homer and two runs scored. "Their pitcher and catcher (Easton Seib and Woolf) are on my comp team and they know how to pitch me. So that homer really made me feel good."
It was just Minnis' second time back in the lineup after she got hit on the right hand by Seib the last time the two teams hooked up.
"I think Payton is the best leadoff hitter in the city, so it's great to have her back," Brandner said. "Nothing was broken, but doctors didn't want to take any chances with her. She played the other day, but today is the first time she has led off since getting hit, and you can see what she means to our team."
Snead finished with two singles, a double, three runs scored and an RBI. Kanagawa added two singles, two RBIs and three runs scored and Walls and Morghan Holland added two singles each.
Odegard had two hits for the Jaguars.