By David Sharp
For the first time since 2012, the Knox County Lady Eagles will be making a trip to Springfield, Missouri to participate in the October 26-27, 2018 Class 1 Softball Championships.
The Lady Eagles (18-4-1) defeated Meadville (9-10) by a 17-0, five inning final score in the quarterfinal round at Brookfield. The October 20, 2018 contest saw Katie Hamlin pitch a no hitter, hit a grand slam home run and drive in six runs.
“This is a blessing,” Lady Eagle coach Zach Short said. “This was pretty much readymade. It was a thing of where are we going to fit the pieces together. We made some tweaks along the way. It was just a matter of how we can improve every day.”
Knox County pretty much dominated the game from the beginning. The first ten batters went down in succession. Mackenzie Dennis drew a walk with one out in the fourth inning for the lone Lady Eagle base runner.
“We took a group of players that know they were good, and how we can make them great,” Coach Short said. “Good enough is the enemy of great. We thought we were good enough and we weren’t. Once they challenged themselves and each other, these are the results of that.”
Klarissa Roberts was robbed of a hit on the next at bat when Kinsley Johnson made a sliding catch of a pop fly in right field.
Knox County got a three run line drive homer over the right center field fence from Tadym Mason after Meadville walked Katie Hamlin intentionally in front of the four year starting senior.
“After out LaPlata game, we really struggled with our defense,” Tadym Mason said. “Our hitting has been good. The last two days we have been hitting our defense hard. The last few days it was windy like this.”
“We hit a lot of pop fly balls to our outfielders,” Tadym Mason said. “We got a good read on the wind. We already had one get on. When they walked Katie, that was kind of a slap in the face.”
“My job as a four hole hitter was to get those runs in,” Tadym Mason said. “When that ball went over the right field fence it was a great feeling to know after they walked her that I could tough up and do the same things she likes to do.”
Katie Hamlin cashed in a walk and an error with a second inning RBI hit for a 4-0 lead. Meadville was blanked on no hits and three errors. Mackenzie Dennis went the five inning distance and took the loss. Dennis walked 11 batters, three intentionally with three strikeouts.
McKayla Griffith singled and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning. Knox County loaded the bases but contributed to their total of eight runners stranded. The Lady Eagles held a 5-0 lead after three full innings.
Riley Strange and Savannah Mauck singled with one out in the KCHS fourth inning. McKayla Griffith took another step toward Springfield with a two run double. Haleigh Miller stroked an RBI hit.
Daniela Dooley walked and scored on a wild pitch. Sidney Miller walked and scored on a wild pitch. Katie Hamlin drove in a run with a hit. Tadym Mason was intentionally walked for the second time in the game.
Mackenzie Dennis stopped the rally with a strikeout. Knox County scored six runs in the fourth inning for an 11-0 lead. The Lady Eagles put six more runs on the board in the top of the fifth inning.
Knox County fans got a glimpse of their future in the fifth inning. Taylor Walker came off the bench and walked leading off the fifth frame. Kaitlyn Campbell singled. Daniela Dooley had an RBI hit for a 12-0 lead.
Kinsley Johnson walked. Sidney Miller stroked an RBI single. Katie Hamlin batted with the bases loaded. Hamlin launched her seventh school ball home run. The grand slam closed the books on a 17-0 win in five innings.
Katie Hamlin was 2-4 at the plate with a home run, two runs scored and six batted in. Hamlin struck out five batters in five innings pitched.
“We want to go down there and have fun,” Zach Short responded to a reporter’s question. “We know the competition is going to be tough. We will play Salisbury or Pilot Grove. Everybody tells me they are the best two teams in the state.”
“I know Salisbury is. I have seen them often enough,” Zach Short said. “We have got to be ready to go on Friday, but right now, we have to enjoy it.”
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially after my sophomore year,” Katie Hamlin said. “Losing in the seventh inning in the quarterfinal was just devastating. Making it to the final four this year is just awesome.”
Salisbury beat the Lady Eagles at Knox County after Knox County had beaten Salisbury for a share of the Lewis and Clark Conference championship during the 2016 season.
The Panthers turned around and denied Knox County a chance to return to Springfield after the Lady Eagles won fourth in Class 1 in 2012.
“I kind of hope it is Salisbury. I would like to rematch them after the quarterfinal game I think we can handle them this time,” Katie Hamlin said.
Salisbury (22-4) downed Pilot Grove by a 10-1 final in this season’s softball quarterfinal round. Knox County will have a rematch of an eight run shutout win for Salisbury on September 24, 2018 in conference action.
Knox County and Salisbury will face off at 2PM on Friday, October 26, 2018 in the Class 1 softball championships semi final round. The winner plays on Saturday, October 27 at 2PM in the Class 1 State Championship game.
Knox County or Salisbury will play in the Class 1 third place game on Friday, October 26 at 5PM. The Lewis and Clark Conference is set to win two of the four Class 1 State Championship trophies.
“Our defense has definitely gotten stronger,” Katie Hamlin said. “We practiced defense yesterday. I trust our defense 100%. There is no doubt in my mind that they will defend whatever is hit at them.”
Kinsley Johnson walked four times and scored three runs. Sidney Miller was 2-4 with two runs scored and two more batted in. Tadym Mason had a home run with three RBI’s.
McKayla Griffith was 2-3 with two runs scored and two driven in. Savannah Mauck was 2-3 at the plate with a run scored. Knox County scored 17 runs on 13 hits unofficially.
Kinsley Johnson’s sliding catch for the second out of the fourth inning was a defensive highlight reel moment, “I knew it was high in the air. I knew Sass (Savannah Mauck) wasn’t going to get back to it,” Kinsley Johnson said describing the play.
“I ran in, called her off and at that point my body just took over,” Johnson said. “I just went for it. I’m so glad I caught it. It feels pretty good. The work that we have put in all year. We have had such an amazing experience getting here.”
“We have good coaches that always support what we are doing,” Kinsley Johnson said. “We have good teammates always getting each other up. We are always practicing hard. Working hard together.”
“It was just preparing for this moment together,” Kinsley Johnson said.
The clear, high sky day was windy making catching fly balls tough. “We knew going into the game that they are a very, very good team,” Meadville coach Drew Nier said. “The quality of opponents they have beat along the way were very good teams. We knew it was going to take a perfect effort from us.”
“I’m proud of our girls to be in the game as long as they were,” Drew Nier said. “They have seven girls in that lineup that at any time can reach out and put one over the fence.”
“They force you to play deep and take away what you want to do. As soon as they smelled blood in the water, they were like a shark. They pounced on us,” Coach Nier said.
“They took advantage when we didn’t make plays to drive in runs. They are a great softball team,” Drew Nier said. “I wish them the best of luck next week in Springfield.”
The Lady Eagles punched their ticket to Springfield in an emphatic manner. “I’m very proud of my team,” catcher Riley Strange said. “The way we came together. Picking each other up.”
“Struggling in hitting, but still scoring that many runs,” Riley Strange said. “Our attitudes have really come together. I’m glad we have the opportunity to go to state.”
“We have been working for this for the last four years,” Katie Hamlin told the Edina Sentinel. “To be able to end your senior year at the final four is just an amazing feeling. We are going to come out, hit hard and hopefully make it to the championship game.”
“She came out and executed,” Knox County coach Zach Short said of his senior hurler. “She just looked so smooth and easy doing it. I was so proud of her. These girls do work hard.”
“That’s a huge goal of mine. It has been since middle school,” Tadym Mason said when asked about the chance to win a state championship. “We have a huge group of seniors. I feel like we have been working hard for each other this year. We have a really good chance.”
“Hard work and talent together with opportunity came together,” Short said. “They just embraced it. The way we have been hitting the ball. We were able to break out today,” Zach Short said.
“We talk about relentless pressure. We were able to do that. It was emphatic. It was all those things I believe we were able to do,’ Coach Short said. “This is an amazing group. I’m just happy I get another week with them.”