REPUBLIC — Even as a freshman, Jordan Phillips couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to find herself in Saturday.
The Nixa shortstop was at-bat with a tie score, two runners on base and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning in the Lady Eagles’ Class 5 District 5 semifinal against Republic.
“I was excited I was up and put in that position,” Phillips said. “I usually go to the batter's box thinking I'm going to get a hit. I've got to trust that I will.”
Phillips indeed delivered a game-winning RBI single to finish off the Lady Eagles' 5-4 victory and punch their ticket for a District championship berth.
Phillips’ game-winner was well-timed and well-placed. The right-handed hitting Phillips hit a grounder through the left side of Republic’s infield to score pinch-runner Mylee Harper from second base.
It initially appeared Phillips would have an infield hit and the bases would be loaded, but the ball got past Republic’s shortstop, enabling Nixa coach Matt Walker to send Harper home.
“A seeing-eye single that I think hit something and popped up over the shortstop,” Walker said. “Nature of the game sometimes.”
“She jammed me,” Phillips said of Republic relief pitcher Kara Goeke's inside offering. “I didn't square it up. But my bat was in the bat path long enough to get it fair at least. The shortstop is good, I'm surprised it got past her.”
Paige Garetson and Rylee Harper both drew walks at the start of the bottom of the seventh.
In the fifth, Grace West walked and scored, while Natalia Pharris was hit by a pitch and scored.
"We started being a little more patient,” Walker said of his hitters' approach in the batter's box. “I’ve always been kind of, 'Hey, let's attack, attack, attack.’ But if we start seeing someone get a little wild and is struggling, we’ll try to back off a little bit. I still tell them, 'If you see a good pitch, I want you to attack and be aggressive.’”
Nixa rallied from deficits of 2-0 after the first inning and 3-1 after two innings. The Lady Eagles tied things up at 4, thanks to their three-run fifth.
After West walked and Pharris was hit, Garetson singled to load the bases. Rylee Harper followed with a two-run single that was misplayed in center field, allowing Mylee Harper, running for Garetson, to advance to third base. Sara Sweaney brought Mylee Harper home with a sacrifice fly.
West started Nixa’s comeback by delivering an RBI single in the second.
“The girls found a way to manufacture enough runs, we managed to get just enough,” Waker said, “We had a couple timely hits.””
“We weren't ready off the bat,” Phillips said. “Eventually, though, we got rolling.”
Like Phillips, winning pitcher Brie Chilton is shining in her first taste of the post-season. The right-handed junior hadn’t pitched in Districts prior to Thursday’s opening-round win against Glendale.
Chilton showed poise under pressure by shaking off a rough start against Republic. The Lady Tigers touched her for three runs and seven hits over the first three innings. But Chilton gave up just one run and four hits over the final our frames.
“It's Districts, everyone's hearts and minds can get racing,” Walker said of Chilton’s early troubles “I made a mound visit (in the first inning) to try to settle things down and limit the chaos. She hung in there and beared down when it mattered. She showed me a lot.”
“Districts is very emotional,” Chilton said. “The first inning, I got a little worked up. It was difficult at times. But I kept thinking about what this meant and how I didn't want it to be our last game. That gave me a lot of motivation and added focus. I calmed down as the game went along. When they would get a hit, I would focus on getting the next batter.”
Nixa (22-10) will play for a District title for a third straight year. The No. 2 seed Lady Eagles meet No. 1 seed Willard (24-11) at 5 p.m. Monday.
“It's exciting. I can't wait for Monday,” Chilton said. "I’m glad I get to experience this, it's a lot of fun. Every game is something new.”
Willard pitcher Hannah Burks, a Missouri-Kansas City commit, shut out Nixa 3-0 in the teams' regular-season meeting.
“Last time, it was a little rough for us with our hitting,” Chilton said. “We were in a weird spot then, so we’ll have to focus on our hitting.”