Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
WARDSVILLE — The Blair Oaks softball team was pretty reluctant to score its first run of the season.
After the Lady Falcons stranded their only three baserunners the first three innings, Mackinnley Hamacher was three quarters of the way to scoring on Ashley Forck’s single through the center fielder’s legs before she tripped and fell to her knees in the bottom of the fourth.
The Lady Falcons were a little more eager to score after that. Hamacher got up and safely reached the plate, and Blair Oaks batted around in the inning on its way to a 8-0 season-opening win Tuesday against St. Elizabeth.
“I thought that our bats were a little sluggish, lethargic-looking,” Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said. “Thank goodness the fourth inning happened, because we came to life then and then everybody just kind of jumped on the bandwagon.”
Payton Staggs began the inning with a walk, and Hamacher came in as courtesy runner. Forck advanced to second on the center fielder’s error and Carli Buschjost followed her with an RBI triple.
Buschjost was thrown out at home on an unsuccessful squeeze attempt, but Macyn Wilbers singled, Lauren Viessman walked, Taylor Markway singled and Jolie Duffner cleared the bases with a single that gave the right fielder trouble. Staggs doubled home Duffner, who had advanced to third on the error, and the Lady Falcons tallied seven runs on six hits in the inning.
“Once we went through the lineup, I just told them what I saw and asked them what they were seeing from the pitcher and just try to make the adjustments,” Sharon Buschjost said. “I said I felt like we were swinging somewhat defensive, just kind of to make that first contact of the season, and I said let’s just swing away. Swing away, swing hard.”
Swing hard they did, and when Staggs entered the circle in the top of the fifth it was a much different ballgame.
“It’s always nice to have some extra runs,” Staggs said. “It’s a lot more comforting to go out there and know you’ve got an extra cushion there.”
Staggs pitched a complete-game three-hitter and only had one walk to go with her eight strikeouts.
“I was real pleased with that,” said Sharon Buschjost, who was keeping a close eye on Staggs’ ball-to-strike ratio. “I felt like she was right around the plate all night, making it tough for the umpire at times (to call) balls and strikes, because she was just hovering right on the edge.”
The game ended with a successful pickoff attempt by Markway, and the scoreless Lady Hornets ended up with as many runners left on base, three, as they did errors.
Regan Wilde pitched all six innings for St. Elizabeth. She only allowed two hits outside of the Lady Falcons’ big fourth inning, and she stranded seven runners on base. She walked four and struck out one.
The Lady Falcons also plated a run in the sixth when Duffner doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice.
It was Blair Oaks’ first game back in Class 2 after playing in Class 3 the last two seasons. Still, St. Elizabeth is typically Blair Oaks’ first game, so Tuesday was nothing new for the Lady Falcons. Not that it would’ve been anyway.
“Our goal is always to make it to the Final Four,” Staggs said. “We always set our goals high, and hopefully we get there. Moving classes doesn’t change any approach or any work ethic. We have to get there and we have to work hard.”
Blair Oaks reached the Class 3 state championship game last season before losing to Centralia, the team the Lady Falcons host Thursday.
The Blair Oaks JV team nearly mirrored the varsity’s win Tuesday, beating St. Elizabeth 8-1.
Emilee Jones was 3-for-3 with a double for the Lady Falcons (2-1) and Paige Luebbering and Macey Stockman went 2-for-2 with a double apiece. Stockman and Megan Mitchem contributed three and two RBI, respectively.
Meredith Eisterhold was the winning pitcher, striking out four.