Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Fatima softball team was having a difficult time moving runners past third base Friday in its Class 2 semifinal against Iberia. So the Lady Comets decided the easiest route to home plate was over the fence.
Seniors Hailey Buscher and Sammey Bunch homered to account for all of Fatima’s runs in a 3-1, eight-inning win that sent the Lady Comets to the state championship game for the second straight year.
Fatima (22-9) faces Lathrop (26-3) with a championship on the line at 2 p.m. today at the Killian Softball Complex.
“To be back in the championship is very, very exciting for these girls,” Fatima coach Dana Scheppers said. “They’ve worked hard all year, and they deserve every bit of this. I give it to them. They’ve worked, so hopefully we can finish it (today).”
Macy Berhorst got the win, allowing just three hits and striking out nine while walking none.
“Macy’s been amazing,” Buscher said. “We wouldn’t be here without her.”
Buscher, Fatima’s eight-spot batter, hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to provide the deciding runs. Makayla Buscher, who singled ahead of her, also scored.
“It was nice to see the bottom of our lineup come through for us,” Scheppers said, “and Hailey Buscher got ahold of it and sent it over. She’s a senior, and it’s great for her to be able to do that.”
Bunch’s home run gave her three straight playoff games with a solo shot, all of which began Fatima’s scoring.
The Lady Comets stranded 11 runners, six in scoring position, and Hailey Buscher’s home run was Fatima’s first hit of the game with runners in scoring position. The Lady Comets had a runner on third with one out in each of the first three innings. Morgan Berhorst doubled to left field in the fourth but was also stranded. Fatima left a runner on base in every inning.
“We had our opportunities several times,” Scheppers said. “We just did not execute. … I’m hoping the nerves are out now and we just go and hopefully finish it.”
Iberia took the lead in the fourth when Cailin Edwards was struck in the helmet by a pitch to become the Lady Rangers’ first baserunner of the game. She stole second and scored on a double to left by Faith Duncan.
Berhorst was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more runs, however. Scheppers came out to the circle, and the following batter hit into a fielder’s choice that led to Duncan being tagged out in a run-down. Berhorst then needed just five more pitches to get out of the inning.
“I went out there, and I told them that we’ve been in this situation before,” Scheppers said. “She knows that, and she’s gotten out of it several times.”
Bunch’s solo homer in the fifth came in her only at-bat in which she wasn’t walked. The “unintentional intentional” walks she received later in the game drew boos from the Fatima faithful.
“I was excited when I didn’t get walked and could actually hit the ball,” Bunch said.
Her home run went over the left-field fence, as did her bombs against Blair Oaks in sectionals and Centralia in quarterfinals.
“She threw me inside both my other at bats on my first pitch, so I was kind of expecting that,” Bunch said, “and so I stepped off the plate a little bit.”
Edwards and Duncan hit back-to-back singles to threaten in the sixth, but Berhorst got a strikeout and a groundout to escape. The Lady Rangers walked Bunch to start the next inning, and it paid off, as the next pitch resulted in a double play. But Berhorst killed any Iberia momentum by striking out Reagan Stiebel to start the bottom of the sixth after Stiebel fouled off six two-strike pitches.
“Macy kept going after her, and she didn’t give up, and she won that battle,” Scheppers said. “Macy’s been doing a wonderful job, and if she continues that, hopefully we’ll finish on top (today).”
It was the third straight playoff game in which Berhorst allowed one or fewer runs.
Buscher’s home run in the eighth was Fatima’s first hit since the fifth. The long drive was one of the more memorable moments of her softball career, she said.
“It’s pretty high up there,” she said with a laugh.
Like Bunch, she sent the pitch deep to left.
“I’m so happy for Hailey,” Bunch added. “She came through at a perfect time, too.”
Fatima won last year’s championship game 16-3 against Pleasant Hope. Today’s opponent, Lathrop, beat Portageville 1-0 on Friday.
Portageville won the Class 2 third-place game with a 10-0 victory over Iberia in six innings on Friday night.