SPRINGFIELD — One final momentum swing toward Kickapoo on Friday proved too much for Ozark to overcome.
The Lady Chiefs padded to their three-run lead by pushing across four insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning en route to a 14-8 triumph in the teams’ Class 4 District 10 championship matchup.
Ozark coach Jimmy Nimmo would have liked his team’s chances to rally trailing 10-7. The Lady Tigers had battled back from defect of 8-2 and 10-4 to make a game of it.
“I didn’t lose hope at all after that eight-run inning,” Nimmo said, referring to Kickapoo’s eight-run explosion in the second frame. “We weren’t worried. I knew our girls would battle back, and we did. It was just that last inning, you can’t allow them the four runs. We kind of didn’t give ourselves much of a chance at the end.”
Ozark relief pitcher Savannah Hughes had held Kickapoo to two runs from the third through the sixth innings.
Meanwhile, second baseman Athena Andrews and catcher Raegan Dickinson triggered the Lady Tigers’ comeback offensively.
Andrews, a transfer from Bettendorf, Iowa, slugged a two-run home run in the first and a three-run homer in the sixth. Dickinson delivered a two-run double in the fifth and later homered in the seventh.
Kickapoo received a grand slam from Kenzie Davis and two RBIs from both Ellie Facklam and Jaden LaBarge. Highly-touted shortstop Chloe Merced was held to one hit.
“I knew it was going to be a battle, because Kickapoo’s a really good offensive team and well-seasoned,” Nimmo said.
Jaden LaBarge, who transferred to Kickapoo over the summer, went the distance for the Lady Chiefs in the center circle to gain the win.
Ozark (18-7) had its streak of reaching 20 wins end at 13 years. The Lady Tigers lost eight games to rainouts, including a a handful of scheduled games at the Carthage Tournament last weekend.
Ozark scored 19 runs in its two District games, but Nimmo felt going eight days in between games threw a curve at his team.
“(The Carthage Tournament) is usually a good tune-up for us, getting to see some good pitching,” Nimmo said. “We had seven days off and didn’t see any live pitching until Glendale (in a semifinal) on Thursday. I think that had a little bit to do with (Friday's loss).”
Ozark’s starting lineup is due to return intact for next year.
“That gives me a lot of hope,” Nimmo said. “Paybacks are nice, but Kickapoo will return most of their players, too and Nixa will continue to get better. It’ll be a hard-fought District again next year.”