The three key elements to any victory on the softball diamond are hitting, pitching and defense.
And the Grain Valley Eagles had an abundance of each as they routed Fort Osage 11-1 for a six-inning mercy rule victory in the first round of the Class 4 District 13 tournament.
Eagles right fielder Lauren Parker didn’t get a hit, but she opened the game with a spectacular diving catch in foul territory against Fort Osage leadoff hitter Kyra McIntosh.
The Grain Valley offense cranked out 12 hits, with Malia Gutierrez going 3-for-3 with a two-run double, an RBI single and solo homer. And starting pitcher Avery Huffman was never challenged as she allowed an unearned run in the top of the first inning and finished with nine strikeouts while allowing just two hits and no walks.
“We did the things you need to do to beat a very good team like Fort Osage,” Grain Valley coach Garrett Ogle said as his 21-9 team advanced to meet top-seeded Lee’s Summit North in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. today at Blue Springs South High School. “Lauren’s catch to open the game was just amazing. The girls were so pumped after that. Then we go out and score five runs in the bottom of the first inning, and Avery shut them down the entire game.
“It was a complete-team win and I am so proud of our girls. We haven’t won a district game in quite a while, and this one feels good.”
Huffman was on the mound when the Eagles lost to Lee’s Summit in the district opener last year, but the sophomore standout said she was not going to let that affect the way she pitched Tuesday.
“When Fort Osage scored in the first (on an Emma James double, and back-to-back wild pitches), I was thinking, ‘I can’t let them score any more runs,” said Huffman, who walked, singled and scored two runs at the plate. “Then my girls score five runs in the bottom of the first, and I just felt so much better, so much more confident.”
And it showed as she pitched shutout ball over the remaining five innings.
“We just kind of fed off each other,” Gutierrez said. “Lauren starts the game with that amazing catch in right field, we score five runs in the bottom of the first and Avery throws a two-hitter. We can enjoy this tonight because we’ve got another big game tomorrow.”
Morgan Robinson and Gutierrez each had two-run hits in the bottom of the first and Alexis Parra added an RBI double.
Gutierrez had an RBI single and Parra hit a two-run single in a three-run third inning, and Mikayla Chairez tripled and scored on an errant throw to make it 9-1 in the fourth.
Gutierrez homered in the fifth inning, and Morgan Robinson walked with the bases loaded in the sixth to end it early on the mercy rule.
Fort Osage, which completed a 12-0 sweep of the Suburban Middle Seven Conference earlier in the week, finished 16-8 overall.