Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
WESTPHALIA, Mo. — Abby Masek picked a pretty nice time for her first career home run.
The senior designated hitter sent a seventh-inning pitch over the center-field wall Tuesday to break a 2-all tie and lead the Helias softball team to a 4-3 defeat of Fatima.
“She’d been hitting them off the wall all season,” Helias coach Dan Campbell said. “She finally got enough tonight to get it over, so that was a big hit, and I’m real happy for her.”
Masek said the home run was the biggest moment of her softball career.
“I’ve been really frustrated lately,” she said. “It’s always, hit the fence, hit the fence, nothing going over. Now finally all my hard work’s paid off.”
The two-run shot completed Helias’ comeback from an early 2-0 deficit. The Lady Comets made a go at a comeback of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Senior Sammey Bunch hit a solo home run before Macy Berhorst knocked a ground-rule double to right. Helias starter Lindsey Steinbeck recorded a groundout and a flyout, however, to strand the tying run.
“She’s definitely our No. 1 pitcher,” Campbell said, “So anytime we’ve got her on the mound and we’re hitting the ball, we’ve got a good chance to win.”
Masek said she was confident Steinbeck could close out the complete-game win.
“She’s an amazing pitcher,” Masek said. “We always have her back, and she always has ours.”
Bunch did just about everything she could to will Fatima to a win on Senior Night, as the shortstop was a triple short of the cycle.
“She’s one heck of a ballplayer and she can’t do it by herself,” Fatima coach Dana Scheppers said. “And we had others step up tonight as well. In that last inning, we did not give up. I was very proud of Sammey to come out and do that and then Macy to get a hit. Good things are going to come of it, I think, once the postseason gets here.”
Bunch hit a ground-rule double in the fourth that would have easily scored Hailey Buscher from third had the ball not rolled under the outfield fence. Steinbeck got a strikeout in the next at-bat to strand Bunch and Buscher.
“Even on (Berhorst’s seventh-inning, ground-rule double) I think she would have been at third,” Schepper said. “It’s part of it. Both teams had to deal with it.”
Fatima took the lead in the second inning on a Makayla Buscher walk, an Erin Eichholz sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and an RBI groundout by Haley Rehagen. The Lady Comets added a run in the third when Berhorst hit a solo home run, the first of two Fatima home runs with the bases empty.
“If the runners are on and that happens,” Scheppers said, “it could be a total different outcome of the game.”
Helias evened the game with two runs in the fifth. Abbi Pringer reached base for the second of three times on the day with a leadoff triple. Julie Harris walked on a seven-pitch at-bat, and Lauren Morrow plated Pringer with a single to left. Grace Dittmer then walked before Harris, who moved to third on a passed ball, scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Kaylie LeCuru.
The Lady Crusaders might have needed more than two runs to even the score had Steinbeck not escaped some tough situations earlier in the game. She stranded six runners in the first four innings, five of which were in scoring position.
“We did get out of some jams and made some plays when we had to,” Campbell said. “… I think for the most part we played pretty good defense tonight, so that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. That’s our bread and butter. If we play good defense, we’re in every game.”
With the game tied in the seventh and two outs, Jordyn Nappier drew a five-pitch walk in front of Masek, who fouled off the first pitch of her at-bat. The second pitch was driven over the centerfield fence, despite an all-out effort from Eichholz in center field.
“It was going pretty high, and I was rounding first, and I’m like, ‘I’m hoping it’s going over, going over,’” Masek said. “And then finally I see her fall over, and I knew it was (gone). I was pretty excited.”
Helias improved to 14-7 with the win and Fatima fell to 9-7. The teams get a shot at one another again Oct. 2.
“That’s kind of what we said in the huddle, ‘Hey, you get another chance in a week and a half,’” Scheppers said. “Anytime you can beat a big school like that, or even compete with them, it’s a good thing.”