Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Helias softball team battled back from three deficits Friday night at the Killian Softball Complex.
Unfortunately for the Lady Crusaders, St. Joseph Lafayette handed them four.
Helias dropped an 11-6 decision Friday night to Lafayette in eight innings in the Class 3 third-place game. The Lady Crusaders erased Lafayette leads of 2-0, 4-3 and 6-4, but a five-run eighth inning by the Fighting Irish proved too much.
“I’m very proud of them for battling,” Helias coach Dan Campbell said. “They battled the whole season. The last two weeks, a lot of close games, a lot of coming from behind. We just fell a little short tonight.”
Freshman Abbi Pringer started in the circle for Helias, pitching all but one of the game’s 24 outs. She also had two singles and scored two runs.
“She’s going to be a great player,” Campbell said. “She already is a great player, and to get out here and get some experience as a freshman is going to play big dividends for us down the road, I hope.
“We lose seven great seniors, which is going to be hard to replace. I’m very proud of those girls and the leadership they showed this year is just awesome. We’re going to miss them, but we’ve got a good group of underclassmen coming back.”
Helias made four errors, all of which led to runs.
“We didn’t play good enough defense today to win games against good teams, and they know that,” Campbell said.
The defensive struggles started early. The Fighting Irish made the most of a second chance in the first inning, scoring a run on an error that should have ended the inning. They added a second when the next batter singled.
The Lady Crusaders got one back in the first on a two-out single by Grace Dittmer that plated Julie Harris, who also singled to left.
A second error plagued Helias in the third inning. After two singles and a walk, a Lafayette ground ball was muffed in the infield to give the Fighting Irish a 3-1 advantage.
The Fighting Irish returned the favor, however, in the bottom of the inning, and their first error of the game was a costly one. Pringer hit a one-out single and moved to third on a groundout and a wild pitch. A fly ball from Lauren Morrow should have ended the inning, but the ball eluded the outfielder and Pringer scored. Dittmer then cranked a double to right to score Morrow to tie the game at 3.
Lafayette regained the lead in the top of the fifth without getting the ball out of the infield. Jacee Winn reached on an infield hit to start the inning. She moved to second on a sacrifice fly, third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout.
Helias tied the game in the sixth with a leadoff double from Morrow and an RBI single by Jordyn Nappier after Dittmer was intentionally walked.
But the Fighting Irish bounced right back with a two-run seventh. After a pair of leadoff walks, Baylee Hoffman’s one-out double drove in two.
Down to — seemingly — their last shot, the Lady Crusaders rallied yet again in the bottom of the seventh.
Sophia Carr led off the frame with a hit by pitch, Pringer singled and took second on an error, and Harris drove in Carr with a single. Pringer tied the game at 6 when Morrow reached on an infield single.
The Lady Crusaders fell short of closing the deal, however, stranding the winning run at third.
“I thought we were going to get it done in the seventh,” Campbell said. “We had some baserunners on, but I’m proud of the girls for battling back. We were down two runs, came back and tied it and had a chance to win it. Just couldn’t get the big hit at that time.”
When the Fighting Irish claimed the lead once again in the eighth, they did it for good. Lafayette batted through the lineup, racking up two singles, a double and a triple. Aided by two errors, the Fighting Irish took a five-run lead.
Helias began the bottom of the eighth with a bloop single to left by Abby Masek, but the Lady Crusaders’ final attempt at a rally fell short, ending in two groundouts and a strikeout.
The loss was Helias’ second of the day. The Crusaders fell 15-3 to Warrenton earlier in a semifinal game.
“Of course we’re disappointed we didn’t at least win one today,” Campbell said. “But it doesn’t damper our season.”
Helias fell behind quickly against Warrenton and couldn’t recover, losing in six innings.
“That’s happened to us a few times this year,” Campbell said. “We just dug ourselves a little hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
The Warriors pushed four across in the first inning on five singles, two steals and an error. Kayla Anderson added a run in the second inning on a solo homer, and Warrenton made it 8-0 with a double, an error and a home run in the third.
“I thought we could come back and make a run at them, but they’re a good hitting team,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They hit the ball, and we just didn’t play our best game. When you couple that with the way they hit, that’s when you get that score that we got.”
Helias got on the board in the second when Kaylie LeCuru singled, Masek walked and they scored after a pair of errors.
The Lady Crusaders cut the lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run by Pringer.
The Warriors more than made up for it by sending 12 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth. Warrenton scored seven runs on four hits and an error in the frame, building its lead to double digits.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, Warrenton had the six-inning victory.
Pringer also contributed on the mound in the semifinal game, pitching five innings of relief.
Helias ends the year with a record of 21-11.