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Tigers duo upends Truman's district plans

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Truman's Kennedy Rucker (2) screams as she crosses home plate on an inside-the-park home run in Tuesday's Class 5 District 7 first-round game against Lee's Summit. The joy was short-lived though as the Tigers rallied for a 2-1 win.

With one swing of the bat, and a game-ending defensive gem behind the plate, Lee’s Summit catcher Kelyse Stewart joined pitcher Aleigh Mefford in the spotlight.

Their Tigers closed the curtain on a Truman season that will find its place in the record book, eking out a 2-1 win over the Patriots, who entered with a 20-8 record.

Mefford allowed just two hits – including Kennedy Rucker’s inside-the-park-home run – and struck out 12 while her batterymate drove in the game-winning runs with a sixth-inning two-run single and then ended the Class 5 District 7 first-round game with a diving catch of a foul ball behind the plate Tuesday at Blue Springs High School.

Lee's Summit pitcher Aleigh Mefford leaps for joy after closing out a 2-1 upset win over Truman in a Class 5 District 7 first-round game Tuesday. The Tigers advance to Wednesday's semifinal against defending state champion Blue Springs South.

“In a game like this you have to give credit where credit is due,” Truman coach Dan Harper said after a heartfelt postgame talk with his Patriots, who won their first conference championship (tying Grain Valley for first place) since the glory days of Paige Parker.

“And the credit goes to their pitcher and their catcher. (Mefford) was in control the entire game and you don’t get bigger hits than a two-out single that drives in the game-winning runs.”

One by one, his players walked past their popular coach, tears streaming down their faces.

“This one is tough,” Harper said. “Kennedy and Myel (White, who allowed four hits and struck out six) and our seniors have been part of the return of Truman softball.

“We tied Grain Valley for the conference championship and we won 20 games. That will mean something to them soon – real soon.”

White and Rucker agreed.

“I don’t feel too good right now,” said White, as she apologized for the tears streaming down her face. “But I know we had a great season. And our girls played great today. They made some great defensive plays behind me and Kennedy had a great game offensively and defensively.”

Truman senior Myel White pitches in a Class 5 District 7 first-round game against Lee's Summit. It was White's last high school game as the Tigers upended the third-seeded Patriots 2-1

Rucker slapped the ball into the right field corner in the bottom of the fourth inning and picked up her coach at third base as he waved her home.

“I thought I had a good chance of making it home,” said Rucker, who hit a long fly ball off the glove of centerfielder Kenna Wilke with one out in the sixth inning, but did not score.

“I saw Harper waving me home, and I was so excited to give Myel and our team a (1-0) lead. I just wish it would have lasted. It’s so hard to think about this being our last game.”

Truman shortstop Erynn Boatright celebrates after tagging out a Lee's Summit runner on a pickoff at second base in Tuesday's Class 5 District 7 game. The Patriots, though, lost 2-1.

Lee’s Summit coach Joe Rohlfing, a former Examiner Baseball Player of the Year when he was starring at Lee’s Summit West High School, said Mefford was the spark plug for the Tigers.

“This was a big win for us, because Myel and Truman beat us 5-0 last time we played them,” Rohlfing said. “Aleigh brings so much energy to our team and she’s a great pitcher.

“She was in control the entire game.”

Mefford walked White to open the bottom of the seventh, which Rohlfing was glad to see.

“Myel can change a game with one swing of the bat, so that walk didn’t bother me,” he said. “But when she went 3-0 on the next batter I was a little concerned.”

Cece Mora had a 3-0 count, but Mefford came back to claim one of the biggest strikeouts of the game. A pop fly to left field and Stewart’s diving catch behind the plate ended the nailbiter.

“My team has supported me all season and I wanted to support them today,” Mefford said. “We didn’t want Myel to have the chance to tie the game in the last inning, but I was disappointed I went to 3-0 on the next batter.

“Coming back to strike her out was one of the biggest moments of the game.”