METROPOLIS — Massac County crushed three home runs in a 10-4 victory over Trico on Thursday to clinch the softball program’s second-ever sectional title dating back to 1985 according to MCHS Athletic Director Patrick Clark.
Senior Cali McCraw earned the pitching win and delivered the clutch three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to give her team a six-run cushion. It was a timely swing after Trico struck two runs in the top half to make it a 7-4 ballgame, but McCraw wanted those runs back.
“I heard a quote recently, ‘If you’re not willing to risk it all, you don’t deserve to win it all,’ so I was like, alright, I’m swinging for the fences,” said McCraw. “I just trusted my swing and this team has worked so hard. We won state in the eighth grade with the same group so this feels awesome.”
McCraw got the run support she needed in the first inning when Jenna Bunting launched a three-run homer to get the Lady Patriots out to an early 3-0 lead on Trico starter Josie Wettig. The senior catcher’s two-out bomb scored Kaylee Batha and Maddie Jenkins to gain the momentum they never gave back.
“Honestly, this feels amazing,” said Bunting, “especially after not being able to play last year.”
Bunting said she ignored all hitting advice when she got a first-pitch changeup from Wettig.
“I’ve been taught you don’t swing at the first pitch, but then I saw the changeup and I wanted it so bad — I’m glad I took it.”
Wettig, a freshman, went the distance for the Lady Pioneers on 106 pitches and allowed three-run innings in the first, fourth and sixth innings. She faced a disciplined lineup of Lady Patriots, who went a complete game without striking out.
While Bunting and McCraw owned the bookends of the three-run innings, freshman Larkin Korte gave the team a 4-2 advantage in the second inning by launching a solo home run; her third of the season and second on varsity. Korte’s timely swing followed an Alyssa Bastien solo home run in the top half that brought Trico within one run after Bailey Kuhnert also scored on a Myah Kelley single.
“It felt really good to contribute,” said Korte, who finished 2-for-2 at the dish with a home run, sacrifice fly and double. “Starting as a freshman, it’s been really fun to have a good team around me. My teammates are really good at giving me confidence with their energy from the dugout.”
The back-breaking inning for Trico came in the fourth when three defensive errors aided a three-run inning for Massac County to take a 7-2 lead. It started when Macy Pierce led off with a single before Claire Bremer reached on a ground ball throwing error by Wettig.
Wettig’s mistake advanced Pierce to third and Bremer to second before Pierce scored on a Korte sacrifice fly and Bremer scored on a Sophie Bormann groundout to make it a 6-2 score. Senior Emma Austin then came around to score her team’s third run of the fourth after errors by Dalyn Eilers and Bastien allowed Batha a two-out single to extend the lead to 7-2.
Trico suffered four errors while Massac County escaped with three.
“You never want to walk off the field with a loss,” said Trico coach Drew Franklin. “Hats off to Massac, they did what they needed to do today. I didn’t think we had our A game, so it is what it is and that’s the game of softball — some days you’ve got it and some days you don’t.”
Trico left six runners on base with a chance to tack on an extra run in the sixth inning after Kelley struck a two-run single to score Taylor Cottom and Laney Anderson to cut the deficit to 7-4. With Kelley standing at second with two outs, McCraw got Eilers to pop out to Bremer at third base to escape further harm.
Bremer and her pitcher kept that connection in the final inning when McCraw got the heart of Trico’s order to pop out on four pitches; all three landing in Bremer’s mitt.
Massac County advances to the Class 2A Super-Sectional game against Freeburg on Monday at Johnston City High School.
“Our girls have worked their whole lives for this moment,” said Massac County coach Molly Hargrove. “It’s been a fun season and we look forward to playing Freeburg.”