Savannah Hughes’ home run Tuesday came complete with a pair of sound effects, the high-pitched ping of the ball off her bat and the loud thud of the ball landing on the roof of a shed beyond the left-field fence.
The two-run bomb was part of a six-run fifth inning in Ozark’s 9-3 Class 5 District 6 opening-round victory versus Glendale.
“I couldn’t really watch her home run because I was running, but I heard it hit the building,” said teammate Kenna Mayfield, who scored on Hughes’ clout.
Hughes’ homer easily cleared the left-field fence at Nixa and also nearly cleared a makeshift garage that the Lady Eagles use for storage. An estimate that the ball traveled 250 feet would seem reasonable.
“I was watching it as I got to first base,” Hughes said. “I had a moment in which I thought it wasn’t going to go over, but then I remembered what field we’re at and how short (the outfield dimensions are) here. It felt really good when the ball hit the shed.”
She obviously didn’t miss her pitch, but missed her proposed target.
“Coach (Jimmy) Nimmo told me to hit the scoreboard before I went to bat. I missed that a little bit,” Hughes said.
The Lady Tigers (23-7) were bemoaning missed opportunities over the first four innings, while clinging to a 3-1 lead.
“Those first three innings, we left six or seven baserunners on and four of them were in scoring position,” Nimmo said. “We needed to be more patient at the plate. We weren’t being as selective as we needed to be early in the count and were chasing pitches we shouldn’t have.”
Glendale threw Ozark a curve of sorts by electing to start pitcher Anna Baker in the center circle, instead of its ace, Riley King. Baker, a former Nixa pitcher, is about finesse by repeatedly throwing off-speed pitchers. King has an effective changeup, but is more about power.
“Maybe they heard something in their scouting report, but I have no idea,” Nimmo said. “We have not seed hardly any pitchers throw that slow. We’ve seen a lot of quality pitching this year. I’m not sure why they did that.”
Hughes, Mayfield and center fielder Abby Ford all have been teammates in club ball with King and assumed they would be going against her.
“I was expecting her to go and I saw her warming up in the bullpen,” Hughes said. “It was a shocker when she wasn’t pitching. We were talking about how maybe (something) got into their scouting. But it didn’t play out very well.”
“I was very surprised,” Mayfield said. “I fully thought she would start and had prepared myself to see a lot of changeups.”
Baker kept Glendale within range of second-seeded Ozark, but having her try to go through the Lady Tigers’ lineup a third and fourth time proved to be a mistake. While seeing Baker for a fourth at-bat, Ford ripped a three-run triple in the fifth and Mayfield rocketed a single off the right-field fence to force the Lady Falcons to make a change and bring in King.
Ford had four of her five RBIs in the fifth, as she twice came to the plate with the bases loaded.
“I knew that was a chance to break it open and get a big lead on them,” Ford said. “It had been a little too close for comfort. We wanted to get a big lead and add some comfort, so we didn’t have to worry.”
Mayfield finished 4-for-4, Ford was 3-for-4 and Courtney Merrell, right fielder Karissa Roberts and shortstop Kaylee Linnebur all had two hits.
The Lady Tigers were proud of the in-game adjustments they made.
Hughes had hit two infield pop outs, before her home run.
“I had been looking outside because she has a curve ball. I scooted up to the plate a little bit. But she came inside and I got jammed,” Hughes said. “Normally, I don’t scoot up very far because I like the inside pitch and I don’t want it coming in too close to me, but still be a strike. I scooted back for my third at-bat against her because she was throwing me inside.”
Ford enjoyed success, even while working on her timing.
“My first at-bat, I could feel my timing was a little off,” she said. “My second at-bat, I pulled the pitch, so I knew I was a little early. My third at-bat, I hit another ball to the right side. By my fourth at-bat, I picked up on something with the pitcher to (help) with my timing.”
Nimmo felt all of his hitters’ timing got better the more the pitches they saw from Baker.
“You’ve got to be looking for something to drive, allow the ball to travel, not be impatient and believe in yourself,” he said. “The girls finally allowed the ball to travel more and were able to drive about everything up the middle.”
Winning pitcher Jordyn Foley threw a five-hitter, while striking out 12 and walking four.
“She wasn’t completely herself, but still pitched a good game,” Nimmo said. “Jordyn commands the zone on a daily basis. Tonight, she was little off her game. But overall, she did a good job throughout their lineup.”
Ozark advances to meet Republic (16-9-1) at 6:30 tonight in a semifinal.
In other first-round games Tuesday, No. 1 seeded Nixa whipped Springfield Central 15-0, fifth-seeded Carthage downed Kickapoo 5-1 and third-seeded Republic took care of Joplin 6-4.
Nixa received home runs from Phoebe Gardner, Dakota Hale and Maddy Meierer, with Gardner’s shot being a grand slam. Gardner finished with five RBIs, while Meierer and Kaylee Schlenker each had three RBIs.
The Lady Eagles (21-8) meet Carthage (21-13) today at 4:30.