SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Addie Lightner was not going to squander her second chance.
The Blue Springs South senior hit a foul pop in the sixth inning, seemingly missing an opportunity with the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position with just one out.
But when Rock Bridge third baseman Chloe Simon saw the ball pop in and out of her glove just outside the baseline, Lightner returned to home plate with new life in the Class 4 state semifinal game Friday.
“All right, they’re giving me another chance here, I’ve got to make the most of it,” Lightner said of her initial reaction. “Not trying to do anything too much. Just trying to get someone across the plate to tie it up.”
Lightner did that and more.
The two-way standout roped a double to center field to drive in Regi Hecker and Emily Berry, giving Blue Springs South its first lead of the game.
“She just went back up there and did what needed to be done,” Blue Springs South coach Kristi Williams said.
Lightner was lights-out the rest of the way in the circle, retiring the final 13 Bruin batters to lift the reigning state champions to a 3-2 victory.
Blue Springs South (19-6) advances to its fourth consecutive Class 4 title game. The Jaguars are set to play Suburban Big Six rival Raymore-Peculiar (26-5) in the state championship at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Killian Sports Complex.
“Both of our teams came down here with the idea we want to play each other on Saturday,” Williams said. “It’s awesome for our conference, it’s awesome for Kansas City, it’s awesome for our kids. Having two Big Six Suburban Conference teams ready to play for the state championship just says a ton about the talent and the teams and the coaches we have in Kansas City and in our conference, especially.”
Sophia Lopez opened the top of the sixth with a grounder that snuck through the infield for the Jaguars’ second hit of the game. Berry landed a bunt in no man’s land just to the left of the pitching circle to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
All of a sudden, the Jaguars put together their first significant threat.
“(Lopez) came through with a big hit to lead us off, and we just kind of steamrolled after that,” Williams said. “That’s what we tend to do. The girls feed off each other.”
Hecker followed with a double to left field to put Blue Springs South on the board.
After Rock Bridge pitcher Ella Schouten fired a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Lightner strolled to the plate for her game-changing at-bat.
Her double proved to be just what the Jaguars needed to live another day.
“We have the experience of knowing what’s going to happen if you lose and what happens if you win,” Lightner said. “We want to go to the end. All season long, we have fought to the end. We’ve never given up. We’ve always gone to the last out of the seventh inning. We know the pressure, but we all came together today and came out on top.”
Early on, however, it was Rock Bridge (27-7) that captured momentum. Anna Christ’s infield single drove home an unearned run for the Bruins in the first, and Abby Hay doubled to the fence to make it 2-0 Rock Bridge in the second.
But after the Bruins put a runner on base in the third, Lightner kept them off the base paths the rest of the way.
“After the second inning, she really didn’t give up much of anything,” Williams said of her starting pitcher. “She did a great job today in the circle. We didn’t back her up very well the first couple innings, but then our whole defense just locked it down.”
Hecker opened the fourth with a single and reached third on an error. The heart of the Jaguars’ order couldn’t drive her home, however, as Schouten sandwiched a shallow popout between a pair of strikeouts to escape the jam.
Schouten struck out 10 batters for Rock Bridge in the loss.
“It was some type of funky spin,” Lightner said of her counterpart. “She’s left-handed and we don’t see a lot of lefties. It was just adjusting our timing and finally we did. Maybe a little sooner next time.”
There will be only one more “next time” this season, and it will be a rubber match featuring the highest stakes possible.
Blue Springs South and Raymore-Peculiar split two regular-season games, with the Jaguars losing 5-0 on the road Sept. 19, but winning 8-0 at home Oct. 7.
The winner Saturday will have bragging rights in the history books.
“Just having another opportunity is surreal,” Williams said of reaching another championship game. “It’s awesome. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just so proud of our kids.”