Lady Tigers will host Clopton in quarterfinal game Saturday starting at 3 p.m.
Pilot Grove sophomore Natalie Rentel definitely knows how to take the drama out of a ballgame.
While playing Calvary Lutheran in a Class 1 Sectional game Wednesday in Jefferson City, Rentel hit her first career home run in the fifth inning to lead the Lady Tigers to a 10-2 victory.
The Lady Tigers, 19-7 on the season, will now advance to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on Saturday in Pilot Grove against Clopton starting at 3 p.m. The Lady Hawks won 2-0 over Cairo.
In addition to hitting a three-run home run in the fifth to break the game wide open for the Lady Tigers, Rentel also doubled and drove in two runs as part of a 12-hit attack in the game for Pilot Grove.
Commenting on her first career home run, Rentel said it was exciting.
“I was just hoping it went over and then I looked at Coach Daniel at first and he said its over so then I started cheering,” Rentel said. “I was so happy. It was definitely a high pitch and it was a little inside but inside is what I go for clearly since I swung at like four of them in a row.”
Rentel also reiterated what head coach Neal Bailey said after the win against Calvary Lutheran.
“We didn’t play our best,” Rentel said. “We still can play better but I think it was great. We were pleased with this one. It’s been a good season so far and it’s only going to get better.”
Of course its kind of hard to find fault in a game where you win by eight runs and scratch out 12 hits. Nonetheless, the Lady Tigers will have to clean up a few things between now and Saturday after committing four errors in the field.
Coach Bailey said first of all he is extremely proud of the girls but added there is more left. “It helped tremendously to score four runs in the first-two innings because it let everybody relax a little bit,” Bailey said. “However, we still had a few jitters because we make a lot of those plays that we didn’t make. If we can still win at this stage and not play our best hopefully we can put it together and play our best Saturday and continue on.”
Although the cold weather may have had something to do with the play in the field, the Lady Tigers didn’t seem to let that bother them at the plate. Eight of the 10 players that came to the plate for Pilot Grove finished the game with at least one hit.
Needless to say, the Lady Tigers set the tone early with two runs in the first on back-to-back singles by Reagan Walker and Emily Schupp and two Calvary Lutheran errors to go up 2-0.
Meanwhile, after the Lions stranded two runners in its half of the first, Pilot Grove came back and tacked on two more runs in the second on the two-RBI single to left by Melanie Wolfe to extend the lead to 4-0.
The Lady Lions didn’t go down without a fight, though. Down by four runs after 1 1/2, Calvary Lutheran cut the lead to 4-1 on the solo home run to right by Lily McCarty. Then, after holding Pilot Grove to a 1-2-3 inning in its half of the third, Calvary Lutheran added another run in the bottom-half of the inning on two hits and one error to make it 4-2.
Calvary Lutheran never got any closer in the ballgame as Pilot Grove rattled the bats again with three runs in the top-half of the fifth on the three-run home run by Rentel to push the lead to 7-2.
Bailey said the home run was huge. “You just never know,” Bailey said, “At this stage they are all good hitting teams and they showed us they are a good hitting team. No runs are ever enough in high school girls softball. It’s never enough, so that really opened it up enough to where it gave us a little bit more breathing room.”
The Lady Tigers weren’t done, though. In the sixth, Pilot Grove capped it off with three more runs on doubles each by Emily Schupp and Rentel to make it 8-2. Sasha Moore then drove in two more runs with a single to right to push the lead to 10-2.
Junior pitcher Samarah Bailey also went the distance in the circle for Pilot Grove for her 17th win. While striking out nine batters, Bailey also gave up just two runs on five hits and two walks. Presley Welch took the loss for Calvary Lutheran.
Emily Schupp led the hitting attack with two singles and one double for Pilot Grove. Rentel had one double, one home run and four RBIs while Melanie Wolfe added two singles and two RBIs, Sasha Moore one single and two RBIs, Bailey one single and one RBI and Walker, Hailey Lawrence and Kaitlen Weekley each with one single.
McCarty’s home run was the only extra base hit for Calvary Lutheran. The Lady Lions had only five total hits in the game.