The People's Tribune

Back-to-back state champs!

Lady Cats Beat Trenton In Extra Innings To Secure The State Championship Hardware For The Second Consecutive Year

Two games…four runs – that is all Bowling Green needed to down two teams that were hungry to dethrone the reigning champs, as the Lady Cats repeated as Class 2 State Champions and secured their spot as one of the all-time best in Missouri.

After rebounding from injury and prior-year disappointments to earn the title a year ago, this year’s Bowling Green team challenged themselves with stiff competition to stay sharp and withstood challenges from familiar rivals looking to upset the area’s top team.

The Lady Cats passed each test, but found themselves matched against the team they beat last year for the title in this year’s state semifinal on Friday afternoon. Blair Oaks, runners-up the last two seasons, was the opponent in the semi.

The Falcons came into the game with a 26-4 record, a pitcher that broke her own school record for strikeouts in a season, and an offense that hadn’t been shut out all season.

The Lady Cats knew they had to start strong and senior catcher Gabi Deters took control early. With one out Deters doubled into the wind to put herself in scoring position.

Knowing her counterpart behind the plate was less experienced, Deters attempted to steal third and forced a throw from freshman Ellie Kliethermes. The throw went wild into left field and Deters scored to put Bowling Green ahead.

With the early lead, Sarah Harness went to work in the pitcher’s circle. The senior hurler pitched around a walk in the first, a hit and an error in the second and a walk in the third inning. From that point only one would reach for the Falcons on a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh.

Harness struck out 14 Blair Oaks hitters, didn’t allow a runner past second base, and shutout the Falcons on two hits.

Bowling Green got a triple from Morgen Billings with two outs in the top of the third and loaded the bases on back-to-back walks, but was unable to plate a run.

The Lady Cats got an insurance run in the top of the sixth as Billings drew a walk to lead off and scored when Deters collected her second double of the day.

The 2-0 win put Bowling Green back in the title game the following afternoon against the Trenton Bulldogs.

Trenton beat East Carter in their own 2-0 semifinal. Blair Oaks went on to beat the Lady Cardinals 8-0 Friday night in the third place game.

When Bowling Green returned to Killian Stadium on Saturday, there would be no early runs in a classic championship tilt with Trenton.

Gabi Deters singled in the first against pitcher Ainsley Tolson, stole second, but was caught on a delayed steal of third as Bowling Green went scoreless early.

Tolson collected her second hit with one out in the bottom of the third and crossed the plate on a double from Mikah Hurley who took third on a heads-up running play. Coach Dean Streed called a conference in the pitcher’s circle. Following the meeting, Streed asked home plate umpire Scott Kasmann for an appeal at third. He ruled Tolson had missed third base and called the senior out, wiping the run off the board for Trenton. The following batter, Maci Moore, grounded out to Jade Meier to end the inning with a 0-0 score.

Meier drew a walk in the fifth inning and Deters was intentionally passed in the sixth, but neither would move past first base.

Moore reached on an error in the sixth for Trenton, but was also stranded at first as the game went to the seventh still tied.

In the top of that inning, Grace Dameron led off with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Hailey Prater.

Haylee Chandler lined out to second, but Chandler Lynch threw wildly back to first to try and double off Prater. The ball went into the Trenton dugout and Prater was awarded third on the error.

Meier followed with a grounder to shallow third that Hurley fielded and tossed a backhanded throw home to nail Prater at the plate to preserve the tie.

Harness walked a batter in the bottom of the inning, but struck out a pair of Bulldogs to send the game into extras.

The eighth went scoreless, but in the top of the ninth Bowling Green finally broke through as Deters led off with another walk followed by a hit from Harness.

After Harness was replaced by courtesy runner Taylor Darnell, the pair were sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt from Dameron.

After delivering a strike on the first pitch to Chandler, Tolson tossed a wild pitch to the screen to score Deters and put the Lady Cats ahead.

With a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, Bowling Green felt good about their chances and Harness pulled ahead of Maci Moore with back-to-back strikes to start the at-bat.

Harness tried to overpower Moore on 0-2, but the sophomore shortstop blasted the pitch deep over the left field fence for a game-tying home run. That was the only run Trenton would be allowed.

After the 10th inning went scoreless the big bats were due up for both teams.

Deters was set to lead-off the top of the 11th and was looking for a crowning moment on an unprecedented career. After taking a pair of pitches to pull ahead in the count 2-0, Tolson let loose her go-to pitch in the game, an outside fastball to Deters who went after the pitch and powered the fastball deep to right. As the senior rounded first base the ball sailed over the wall, resulting in an explosion of emotion from Deters and a lead for the Lady Cats.

Again with a one-run lead, Harness and the Bowling Green defense wouldn’t be denied their destiny.

Harness snagged a come-backer from Tolson for the first out, then Chandler caught a looping liner from Hurley for out number two.

With the bases empty and two down Trenton hero Maci Moore returned to the batter’s box as the team’s last hope. She worked the count to two balls and two strikes, and pulled the trigger on the fifth pitch of the at-bat. Moore lined the ball to the right side where first baseman Jade Meier moved into position and snared the ball on the run to start the celebration of a second straight title.

The liner ended a memorable title game, the longest in Class 2 championship history and cemented this era of Bowling Green softball as one of the all-time best.

The win also earned more accolades for the EMO Conference, which has won five state softball titles in the past 10 years (Bowling Green 2017-18, Silex 2012; Clopton 2009-10).

A rally/celebration was held at the school on Sunday as the community welcomed the back-to-back champs home.

Coach Dean Streed said they knew the semifinal would be tough, but knew what to expect from Blair Oaks in the semifinal. He pointed out that Trenton was not familiar so they had to go into the championship blind with the exception of stats and what they could dig up on the team.

“We knew they would be a quality team, especially making it this far, but we just didn’t know what they would do specifically that made them so strong,” Streed said. “Their pitcher was very respectable, got ahead in at-bats and really worked the outer half. She may have gotten more than 17-inches sometimes, but it was something that we had to adjust to and didn’t consistently do that at the plate. It was one of the toughest battled games I have been a part of.”

He pointed out that a helping gesture was appreciated from the crowd in spotting the runner who missed third base.

“Whoever it was who saw it relayed that information quickly, we were able to appeal the girl missing third base,” he said. “We were pretty sure she missed because of how many people were going crazy over it and the umpire ended up calling the girl out, taking off their first run of the game, and giving us more momentum. And without that happening who knows if we make it to the ninth inning, let alone the 11th, so thank you to whoever saw it and was huge that the umpire had seen it himself and was that focused into our game.”

He pointed out there were times he and team wondered if it would ever end, particularly after Deters scored to put the team up just to see Trenton tie it.

“You wonder which team will break mentally at this point, whether it’s an error, a bad at-bat, a missed pitch, and in the 11th inning someone cracked…the ball was left over the outer half enough that Gabi Deters was able to hit an opposite field home run, which was her 40th on the year, sliding her into MSHSAA’s third all-time career homeruns.”

He added there may not be a bigger homer in her career.

“We talked briefly before that at-bat as she got her gear off. I had mentioned to her that if they are pitching her away, we have to accept it and go with the pitch, not try to pull everything, but rather just go with the pitch and Gabi worked herself into a 2-0 count, which at that point I thought she would be walked, but they pitched to her and made the mistake for us to take the lead on that huge home run.”

He noted that after that, Harness continued to empty the tank in her 11K day, using all her energy and also letting her defense step up behind her.

Streed noted this is the first time a team has gone back-to-back at Bowling Green and it was the longest championship in Class 2 history.

“After the game I just remember chucking my clipboard in the air, with the utmost pride in our team, knowing how mentally tough they were this game and how much they battled. I couldn’t have been any prouder and I don’t know if its set in yet.”

Deters pointed out that winning the game and her career with that home run was very special and exciting but added there was more.

“The best part of this experience is to watch all the girls come together as a team at the end and being able to have Sarah jump in my arms at the end of the game and be able to hold the State Championship trophy up in the air,” she stated.

Deters noted that she and Harness had more leadership this year than last and that it was great to serve as a role model.

“I took the role and ran with it. I’ve always wanted to be a coach and that is the closest thing I have gotten yet to being a coach,” she said. “A catcher is like a quarterback. She is supposed to be a leader and role model and to me it came more natural. I loved it.”

Deters said she will miss everything about softball at Bowling Green and her coach most of all.

“[Coach Streed] has helped me with more than just softball, he has helped me in life and the person I am today. I can not thank Streed enough for always pushing me to succeed and having my back through it all. The home run was shocking! Knowing that it could be my very last at bat of the season, the last thing Streed said to me before I stepped in the box was, ‘Go with it, Gabi.’

She added that she worried the Trenton coach may call to walk her but that getting to hit and see everyone’s reaction is something she’ll never forget. She went on to thank the community for the support that has been shown the team over the years.

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