REPUBLIC — The sun didn’t actually set until 30-some minutes after Nixa’s season came to an end late Wednesday afternoon.
But Kickapoo’s seemingly never-ending six-run sixth inning at the expense of the Lady Eagles felt to them as if it lasted deep into the night and even into the next day.
“It felt like 30 freakin’ hours,” Nixa pitcher Maddy Meierer said.
The Lady Chiefs’ six-pack turned things around big-time and ultimately was the difference in Kickapoo’s 7-5 Class 5 District 6 semifinal win over Nixa.
“It stung,” Lady Eagles catcher Emma Vincent said. “We worked so hard the whole game and then they decided to show up the last few innings.”
Until the Lady Chiefs’ half of the sixth inning, Nixa dominated the proceedings and led 5-1. The Lady Eagles scored four runs in the third and added what felt like an insurance run in the top of the sixth.
Chloe Krans began Nixa’s four-run third with a towering solo home run to left-center. She had been hitless in her previous 14 at-bats.
Kaylee Schlenker followed with a single, Phoebe Gardner delivered an RBI-double and Meierer produced an RBI-triple and scored on a wild pitch.
During the fourth, Kickapoo replaced starting pitcher and former Lady Eagle Jaden LaBarge with Elly Facklam. It was a role reversal for the two from last year’s District semifinal win over Nixa, when LaBarge closed things out in relief of Facklam.
Fackham quieted the Lady Eagles’ bats this time around over the final four innings, yielding three hits and one run on a Katie Faulk RBI-single.
Facklam shut out Nixa 9-0 in the teams’ season-opener back in August, but started at third base Wednesday.
“Kind of, kind of not,” Vincent said when asked if she was surprised Facklam wasn’t pitching at the outset. “I knew they were going to throw Ellie against the team they thought would be the hardest for them to beat and I knew from the beginning they didn’t even think about us coming in and beating them.”
“I was surprised because we scored zero runs against (Facklam) at the beginning of the year,” Meierer said. “Jaden scares me. I’ve never hit good off of her. But I think we did good.”
Indeed, everything was going as well as Nixa (15-12) could have hoped through five frames. The Lady Eagles’ confidence that they could upset the District’s top seed grew each inning.
“I really thought we were going to win,” Meierer said. “I thought we were going to shock everyone. They weren’t scoring and we kept scoring. I thought we had them.”
“We were all believing,” Vincent said. “Everyone had no doubt. You could tell everyone was confident. I couldn’t hear anything but my team cheering. We were rolling. I wish we could have continued that.”
Kickapoo (22-3) was at the top of its batting order to begin the sixth and the first eight batters all reached base. The Lady Chiefs had four hits and benefitted from five Nixa errors in the inning.
“The pressure got to us,” Meierer said. “Coach (Matt Walker) had told all of us it was going to be a hard inning because it was going to start with their top batters. That got in our heads and we started making errors.”
Nixa threatened a bit in the seventh, as Sara Sweaney reached an error and Dakota Hale had her second hit of the game. But that’s as far as things got as the Lady Eagles finished with eight runners left on base.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted,” Walker said. “We knew they had a potent offense and we did a good job keeping them at bay early. But a few hits fell in, there were a few dinks and we kicked it around. We at least put a little scare in them. We battled until the end.
“It’s tough to have go through both Ozark (in the first round) and Kickapoo,” he added. “But the girls played their best ball of the season late. I’m proud of them.”
In the other semifinal, upstart Carthage (19-11) whipped Republic (14-6) by a 6-0 count.