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Walk-off hit lifts Jaguars into district final

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Blue Springs South's Ella Westhoff, center, leaps into the arms of teammate Mya Bristow to celebrate after scoring the winning run in a 5-4 walk-off victory over Lee's Summit in a Class 5 District 7 semifinal Wednesday at Blue Springs High School. The Jaguars advanced to Thursday's championship against Lee's Summit North.

Lee’s Summit put another scare into a higher-seeded team, but defending back-to-back state champion Blue Springs South had an answer.

The Jaguars prevailed 5-4 on a walk-off hit from McKenna Lester in the bottom of the seventh to defeat the Tigers and advance to the Class 5 District 7 finals.

Her hit came only a few moments after Lee’s Summit’s Jasmine Myers hit a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the seventh that tied the game.

“I feel like every game in the postseason – even if it is the best team or the worst team – every game is back and forth,” said Lester, who had two hits and scored two runs for South, which won a sixth straight game. “Our mentality going in was to take the game one pitch at a time. After she (Myers) hit the bomb we were devastated, but we were like, ‘We got this.’ We had the good part of the lineup coming up and we just trusted each other.”

Blue Springs South (18-8) got a ground rule double from freshman Ella Westhoff to open the last inning. She laced a line drive over the center fielder’s head and the ball rolled under the makeshift fence in the outfield of the baseball field.

Blue Springs South's Elle Smith, left, smiles after reaching second base on a double as Lee's Summit's Jasmine Myers, front, reaches for the loose ball in Wednesday's Class 5 District 7 semifinal. Smith and the Jaguars won 5-4 to advance to Thursday's championship against Lee's Summit North.

Lee’s Summit chose to intentionally walk leadoff hitter Elle Smith to put two on with no outs. Lester then hit a grounder to the right side of the infield, just what she wanted.

“My mentality was we’ve got two fast girls on the bases, so I was just trying to get the ball on the right side and get them in scoring position and I got Tori (Bradley) behind me, and she’s a great hitter and she would make something happen,” Lester said. “I wasn’t expecting all of that.”

Lester, a left-handed hitter, hit the ball to the second baseman and it bounced off of her and rolled toward the shortstop, who was covering the base as Smith was running toward it.

The shortstop couldn’t get the carom and the center field ultimately got the ball, but by then Westhoff was sliding into home for the game-winning run.

Blue Springs South's Ella Westhoff slides across home plate with the winning run in a 5-4 walk-off victory over Lee's Summit in a Class 5 District 7 semifinal Wednesday.

“When it got through I was stopping my runner at third,” Jaguars coach Kristi Williams said. “Then, I don’t know what happened, but it got away from her. It was a kind of a crazy play. My runner was ready, once I saw it get past her, I told Ella to go and she didn’t hesitate, she just ran.”

Lester played a role in the first run of the game when she doubled in the bottom of the first and scored on a double by Bradley.

Lee’s Summit (13-13) took a 2-1 lead when Myers hit a ground-rule double  and then scored on Kelyse Stewart’s single in the top of the third. 

Delanie Peetom retired Blue Springs South in order in the third and fourth innings but ran into trouble in the fifth. Smith had an RBI single with two-outs to tie it 2-2. An error on a fly ball that could’ve been the third out allowed Smith to score. Bradley then hit her second double of the game to bring home Lester, who had reached on the error.

The Jaguars gave up a ground rule double to Kenna Witzke – the No. 9 hitter – in the top of the seventh. She moved to third on a ground ball and then Myers hit her 10th home run of the season, a shot to dead center field to tie it at 4. Bre Barchak got a quick ground ball to escape the inning still tied.

“We battled,” Lee’s Summit coach Joe Rohlfing said. “It was good to see we had the energy yesterday and today. South is a great team. They earned it today. They hit the ball hard all day, and even on the pop flies you know they were just missing it. Our pitcher threw great and especially in the first to limit the damage.

“It was just a good high school softball game. We competed; we were just a run short.”

Lee's Summit's Jasmine Myers (22) celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run in a Class 5 District 7 semifinal against Blue Springs South. Myers' two-run blast tied it 4-4 in the top of the seventh inning but the defending state champion Jaguars earned a 5-4 walk-off win on McKenna Lester's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The victory sends Blue Springs South to a district title game for the seventh year in a row and they won district titles the past six years in Class 4 (this is the first season with five classes in Missouri softball).

“They are a very good team, they played great last night and they played great tonight,” Williams said of Lee’s Summit, which knocked off third-seeded Truman 2-1 in the opening round Tuesday. “They are a very disciplined team. They are an extremely disciplined team. They played awesome. I don’t think we were quite expecting that even though we watched them last night.”

The Jaguars will play Class 5 No. 2-ranked Lee’s Summit North in the title game at 4 p.m. Thursday. The two teams split wins during the regular season. The Broncos won 10-0 at South, while the Jaguars then won 16-7 at Lee’s Summit North in their regular-season finale a week ago.

The last time Blue Springs South didn’t reach the district title game came in 2013, losing to Lee’s Summit North in the opening round.

“Someone will win the season series tomorrow,” Williams said. “We know it will be a great game. We will have to be ready to play and play hard.”

Blue Springs South's Ellyse Edwards (28) slides safely into home to score a run in the Jaguars' 5-4 win over Lee's Summit in a Class 5 District 7 semifinal Wednesday.