The People's Tribune

Big Second Inning Carries Lady Hawks To District Championship Over Van-Far

Clopton Will Square Off With Northeast Cairo At Home For State Sectional

The top-seeded Clopton Lady Hawks secured the Class 1 District 7 championship in a 5-3 victory over Van-Far on Friday night in New Haven.

Van-Far (2) drew first blood with a run in the top of the second. Jordan Garner started off the inning with a hit. Mallory Williams then laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Garner to second. The play continued as Garner tried to take an extra base. Alyssa Smith who was covering first attempted to catch the runner at third but the throw bounced off the bag and went into shallow left, allowing the aggressive Garner to wheel home for the first run of the game.

The Lady Hawks quickly answered in the bottom of the second where they sent 10 batters to the plate to face Van-Far pitcher Jayle Jennings.

Van-Far was able to retire the first batter on a grounder to Jennings. Alyssa Smith then drove one into deep right center for a double to get things going. McCaylee McPike strode to the plate despite an ankle injury that sidelined her for the semifinal. She blasted a shot to about the same spot to score Smith and tie the game. Brooklyn McKenney sent one into left for a hit. Madison Horstmeier put down a bunt and was able to beat out the throw to load the bases with just one out for number nine batter Jillian Lockard. She bunted up the third base line, but Mallory Williams was unable to get a grip on the ball to record the out at home as McPike scored the second run of the inning to go ahead.

The inning continued with the top of the order and Kaitlin Kuntz who reached on a fielder’s choice as McKenney was caught at home. The bases were still loaded for Taylor Smith who had just come off a 3-4 five RBI night in the semifinal. She ended up battling for an RBI walk as Clopton went up 3-1 with the hard-hitting Allison Hunter coming up. Hunter didn’t disappoint with a two run hit to score Lockard and Kuntz and put Clopton in the driver’s seat. Street flew out to left to end the inning with some serious damage done.

Van-Far started the third inning off with back to back outs before Makayla McAfee started a rally with a hard-hit triple. While the next batter Carleigh Phillips was up, a pitch got past Taylor Smith allowing McAfee to score Van-Far’s second run of the game. Phillips singled, but Clopton ended the threat on a ground-out by Garner.

Van-Far had another chance in the top of the fourth as Reaghan Case singled and Alivia Graddy reached on a walk. Both were in scoring position, but Clopton’s defense ended put out the fire as a stinging line drive by Morgan McDowell was handled by Allison Hunter at third for out number three.

After getting Clopton in order in the bottom of the inning, the Lady Indians plated one more run in the top of the fifth.

Jayle Jennings reached on a bunt and was moved to second on a sacrifice by McAfee and went to third on a sac bunt by Phillips. Garner drew a walk before Mallory Williams pounded a single to score Jennings. With Garner and Williams in scoring position, Clopton pitcher Maya Street was able to shut things down with her fifth strikeout of the game.

The pitching by both teams was dialed-in for the remainder of the game as both teams sent batters down in order the rest of the way.

Clopton’s Maya Street picked up the win for the Lady Hawks for the second night in a row. She allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out six Van-Far batters. She earned the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game for her calm efforts in the circle.

“It feels great,” Street said of the back-to-back wins back in the circle for Clopton. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates backing up the whole time.”

Street added the team is looking forward to the sectional game.

Van-Far’s Jayle Jennings was tagged with the loss giving up five runs on seven hits and striking out two. All but one hit came in that second inning as Jennings and the Van-Far defense were polished for the remainder of the championship game.

Clopton got hits from Alyssa Smith, McKenney, Horstmeier and Taylor Smith. The team got RBIs from Taylor Smith, McPike and Lockard. Hunter drove in two runs with that big single in the bottom of the second to push the score to 5-1.

Van-Far got hits from Jennings, McAfee, Phillips, Garner, Case, Gina Clausen and an RBI hit from Williams. The Lady Indians season ended at 15-10. They will lose seniors Reaghan Case, Gina Clausen, Carleigh Phillips, Alex Connaway and Morgan McDowell.

Clopton improved to 17-8 with the championship victory and advanced to the State Sectional they will host on Wednesday, Oct. 11. They will face the Northeast (Cairo) Bearcats who are 14-8 at 5 p.m.

“We just have to come out and do what we’re capable of doing,” Coach Matt Cannon remarked. He noted the team has great senior leadership from Taylor Smith, Maya Street and McCaylee McPike.

The sectional will be featured on TribCast and all district tournament games are in the archive at

Clopton Semifinal

The Lady Hawks also picked up a dominating 11-1 win to eliminate host team New Haven (4) in the semifinal on Thursday, 11-1, following an opening round bye.

Kaitlyn Kuntz led off the bottom of the first with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Taylor Smith smashed a double to score Kuntz. Smith stole third and scored on an error by the New Haven catcher.

The Lady Hawks tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third frome. Taylor Smith singled and then scored on a huge triple by Allison Hunter who also came around to score.

Clopton added another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Madi Horstmeier led off with a big double and then Jillian Lockard reached on a single. Horstmeier scored on a ground-out by Taylor Smith. An RBI single by Hunter plated Lockard for a 6-0 lead going into the fifth inning.

Senior pitcher Maya Street and the Clopton defense shut down the top of the stanza.

Brooklyn McKenney started off the bottom of the fifth with a single. Logan Hall was then hit by a pitch. Lockard scored McKenney on an RBI bunt. Kuntz singled to bring up Taylor Smith who didn’t disappoint with a three-RBI triple. Hunter closed down the game with an RBI hit to score Smith.

Several players were a bit out of their “regular” position. Taylor Smith was behind the plate as McCaylee McPike recovered from a lower body injury.

Street got the win with only one run on five hits and striking out 12. Taylor Smith earned the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game for her efforts. She ended the game 3-4 with five RBIs.

Smith told TribCast after the game that she had always wanted to try being a catcher and was happy she could step up for her teammate.

Hunter was 3-4 with three RBIs, Lockard was 3-3 with an RBI, Kuntz and McKenney each had two hits and Horstmeier had one.

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