The Pierce City Lady Eagles saw their softball season conclude with a 13-2 loss to perennial softball power Pleasant Hope Lady Pirates on Oct 14.
Pierce City coach Kacy Gunnels said she was proud of her team's effort.
Despite being on the road, Pierce City won the coin toss and was the home team on the scoreboard.
Pleasant Hope scored early, plating two runs in the top of the first.
Pierce City made some noise in its first at-bat.
Sophomore Bailee Hayward led off the bottom of the first with a single. Emily Ashley hit a ground ball to the Pleasant Hope shortstop, Kari Hillenburg, who, "air mailed" it over the first baseman's head.
Hayward, who had a great secondary lead on the pitch, kept going and was around third base by the time Lady Pirate Haley Hillenburg recovered the ball. Hillenburg made a snap throw to second base, where Ashley was tagged out, but Hayward scored on the throw to second, cutting the lead in half.
Pleasant Hope tallied four runs in their half of the second, extending their lead to 6-1.
Pierce City shortstop Monica Sexton dropped a duck-snort over the outstretched glove of the Pleasant Hope shortstop for a two-out single in the bottom of the second. That would be Pierce City's last base hit of the game.
The Lady Eagles and pitcher McKenzie Moreland dodged bullets in the third and fourth innings, allowing only single tallies in each, making the score 8-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning.
Ashley led off the bottom half with a ball that caught Pleasant Hope's third baseman, Hailey Richardson, on an in-between hop, allowing Ashley to reach first base on the error. Moreland hit a bomb down the left field line, but Pleasant Hope's Shelby Richardson made an excellent running catch in foul territory for the first out of the inning.
With some heady base running, Ashley tagged up on the ball and moved to second. Two pitches later, Pleasant Hope's catcher, Catlin Evans, threw the ball into center while trying to pick off Ashley at second.
Ashley moved to third on the throw and was able to score Pierce City's second run of the game on Beccca Morin's sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Pleasant Hope added five runs in its half of the fifth to stretch their lead to eleven. This forced Pierce City to have to score at least two runs or the game would be called. Pierce City was unable to get anything going in its half of the fifth, going down in order, and the game was ended.
"We have been very focused during this post-season run to the Final Four," said Pleasant Hope coach Jim Flora. "What this group doesn't understand is how hard it is to accomplish all they have accomplished in the last four years. In their minds, anything short of a state title will be viewed as failure."
"We struggled to answer back and match Pleasant Hope's offensive pressure," said Gunnels. "They had 16 hits and hit the ball really well."
Several of the hits were on pitcher's pitches, where Moreland, who finished with eight strikeouts, would hit her spots and the Pleasant Hope hitters made adjustments and hit them where they were pitched.
Despite losing two seniors (Emily Ashley and Faith Strong), Coach Gunnels was upbeat when thinking about the future.
"We expect to be back here next year," said Gunnels. "We will play up (tough schedule) to prepare us for this time of the year. I'm proud of the season we had and my team's effort, especially considering the slow start we had to the season."
The Lady Eagles ended their season, and Coach Gunnels' first year at the helm, 19-7.