Being a sophomore, Jordyn Foley hadn’t talked to any of her Ozark upperclassmen teammates during school Tuesday. Thus, she wasn’t privy to the news senior pitcher Hattie Depee had been in an auto accident the night before.
When Foley arrived for the Lady Tigers’ home matchup with Nixa, she thought it would be just like any other afternoon and it would be a few hours before she would pitch in the jayvee game.
Instead, Foley heard the news of Depee's accident and that she would sit out the contest due to soreness throughout her body. Savannah Hughes was also not available to pitch due to a hamstring injury. Foley then got the news she would be pitching.
“When I walked in the dugout at about 3 o'clock (assistant coach Adam) Erickson told me,” Foley said, recalling when she learned of her starting assignment. “I felt like I’ve been throwing pretty decent. I was thankful coach gave me the chance.”
Not having much time to be nervous seemingly kept Foley’s emotions under control and she proceeded to be in control of the proceedings, as Ozark edged Nixa 3-2. It was the Lady Tigers' 13th win in their last 14 games against the Lady Eagles.
Foley shut out Nixa over the first five innings and finished with four strikeouts while allowing no walks and nine hits.
“I’m proud of Jordyn,” third baseman Emily Schmucker said. “Being a sophomore, I’m surprised she didn’t have more nerves. She was amazing. She kind of always just goes with the flow. I would have been a little intimidated because I know Nixa has some good hitters. She knew she had a good defense behind her supporting her and we could get the job done.”
“I was pretty calm. I’m usually a calm person,” Foley said. “I looked at it like a normal game and tried to do what I usually do.”
It didn’t take Foley long to take note of the home plate umpire’s penchant for calling strikes along the corners of the plate. The ump repeatedly gave both pitchers the outside corner and up to a foot off the plate. The strike zone was rectangular in shape, not square.
“By the fifth pitch of the game,” Foley said about when she noticed the wide strike zone. “The (zone) was kind of going too far. But I was thankful for it. (Catcher Raegen Dickinson) would frame outside and that worked. I usually throw my drop-ball outside. I was hitting my spots."
Schmucker gave Foley just enough run support by hitting a two-run homer as part of Ozark’s three-run third inning. Earlier in the inning, Kenna Mayfield doubled and scored on an infield single by Madi Spies.
For Schmucker, her blast over the center-field wall was her first homer on the season. With a 3-1 count, she was primed and ready to hit.
“It makes you feel so much more relaxed,” Schmucker said about being ahead in the count. “You know you have a better chance. With it being 3-1, I knew it was going to be a strike. It was right down the middle, I swung and it felt good coming off my bat. But I still didn’t think it was going to go over.”
Schmucker hasn’t experienced that home run feeling nearly as much as she’s used to. She hit seven home runs as a freshman, but had just one homer as a sophomore. She’s remained productive as a .300-plus hitter, but naturally would like to go deep more often.
“Sometimes it does,” Schmucker said when asked if her home run drought has bothered her. “But if you think about (a home run), then it won’t come. If I get a good hit, that boosts my confidence. Good hits in general make me feel good.”
Ozark (5-7) has a modest two homers as a team this season. The Lady Tigers finished with 44 homers as recently as two years ago.
“I think we’re more of a small-ball team,” Schmucker said. “But I know a lot of players on the team can hit one over. We’re just focused on base hits.”
Maddy Meierer took the loss, despite allowing only three hits. Ozark had just five baserunners.
Foley fended off a late Nixa rally. Trailing 3-1, the Lady Eagles scored on singles by Lauran Loney, Morgan Delloma and Katie Faulk. With runners on first and third and two outs, Foley induced a groundout to end the game.
“We’ve got to start hitting before the sixth inning. So far we’ve been waiting until it’s too little and too late,” Nixa coach Matt Walker said. “(Foley) kept us off balance and we didn’t make any adjustments.”
The Lady Eagles (5-4) have scored only 31 runs in nine games and have a team batting average of .272.
“We’ve been waiting for (our bats) all season,” Walker said. “We’ve only hit the ball well in one game. It’s baffling to me, that’s what I told them after the game. I can’t wrap my head around it. We’ve got too good of athletes not to be hitting the ball.”