Huffman's arm, bat fuel unbeaten Eagles past Truman

By Bill Althaus

Grain Valley softball coach Garrett Ogle assured Eagles fans that junior pitcher Avery Huffman was not going to drive the team bus back to school.

She did just about everything else to lead the Eagles to a spectacular 2-1 victory over Truman Thursday at Adair Park.

Huffman fired no-hit ball for six innings, and one-hit ball for nine, to go along with 10 strikeouts. And that’s just what she did from the circle. 

At the plate she reached third base on a single and outfield error in the top of the seventh to score on an Ella Clyman single off the glove of Truman ace Myel White. She then tripled with one out in the ninth inning and scored the winning run on Malia Guttierrez’s sacrifice fly to deep center field.

“Avery pretty much did it all today, but it was also a great team win,” said Ogle, whose Eagles improved to 11-0 overall and 4-0 in Suburban Middle Six Conference action. “All Avery does is go out and compete. She is just an amazing competitor and we’re lucky to have her on our team.”

White – the brilliant Truman senior who allowed just one earned run and had 17 strikeouts and no walks – praised Huffman.

“Before the start of the season I kept hearing about this Avery Huffman and everyone said she was really good,” White said, managing a smile despite the tough loss. “Well, she threw three pitches past me today and threw a great game. I guess everything I heard about her is true.”

White and Huffman engaged in a classic pitcher’s duel that resulted in just six combined base hits and 27 strikeouts.

Neither team scored until the seventh when Huffman’s sharp single to center rolled off the glove of Kennedy Rucker, as Huffman scrambled to third base. Clyman then hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that easily scored Huffman as the ball caromed off White’s glove.

However, the game was far from over as sophomore Cece Mora collected the Patriots’ lone hit of the game – a clutch blast over the left centerfield fence that knotted the score in the bottom of the seventh.

“I didn’t know I had a no-hitter until that home run, and I don’t care about stuff like that,” Huffman said. “I was really mad I gave up a homer to tie the game after we took the lead. But we came back and won, so it’s all right. My girls were great today.”

The Eagles won the game in the ninth when Huffman hit that one-out triple and Gutierrez, a summer league teammate of White, hit the game-winning sacrifice fly.

“I love Myel, and I love playing with her in the summer,” said Gutierrez, who was visiting with White and her mother after the game. “But I knew we had a good chance to win the game, and we all wanted to win the game for Avery because she did everything for us.”

The loss dropped Truman to 11-6 and 3-1, and coach Dan Harper said the biggest games are in the future for his Patriots.

“Grain Valley has a great team, but gosh darn it, I wanted to win this one for Myel,” Harper said. “Seventeen strikeouts and no walks – that’s good enough to win. But their pitcher was outstanding, too.

“We get ‘em again, and we’ll see what happens, but the biggest games come at the end of the season and there are a lot of great teams in the area.”