Camdenton held a slim 4-2 lead and delivered a two-run homer that increased the advantage to four runs with just three outs to go. However, the Tigers decided to bring their bats and wrote the final chapter as five runs, marked by a walkoff grand slam, cleared the Ozark dugout as the team celebrated a trip to the quarterfinals on its home field.
There was a storybook ending when Camdenton and Ozark met on the diamond for a Class 4 sectional Wednesday night.
For a moment, it looked like the happy ending would belong to Camdenton as the Lakers did just about everything right to be able to win the game. Camdenton held a slim 4-2 lead and delivered a two-run homer that increased the advantage to four runs with just three outs to go. However, the Tigers decided to bring their bats and wrote the final chapter as five runs, marked by a walkoff grand slam, cleared the Ozark dugout as the team celebrated a trip to the quarterfinals on its home field.
How quickly the script can change.
“Yes it can,” Camdenton coach Tyler Dinsdale said of the quick turn of events. “Ozark is a really good team so we knew coming in we had to be pretty perfect. I don’t think we made any major mistakes throughout the entire game that put us behind. There is nothing I can think back and say, ‘If we would have done this or if we did this it would have been a different story.’
“I think they (Ozark) came up big in that last inning and good for them. They are a good hitting team and you saw that today with three home runs. We just kind of ran into them at a bad inning.”
Camdenton got off to a nice start as a pair of singles from Emma Rakes and Sidney Jones led to an RBI from Fayth Rakes who reached first on an error. Moments later, a fielder’s choice RBI from Emma Uthe made it 2-0 early in the first inning.
Ozark responded with a solo home run in its half of the first, but Camdenton pushed the lead back to two runs after a walk from Emma led to an RBI triple from Jones. Once again, another solo shot from the Tigers cut the deficit in half, but Camdenton’s Shelby Webster smacked a bomb over the center field wall for her school record 15th home run of the season to make it 4-2.
Things quieted down in a scoreless fourth, fifth and sixth, but the Lakers went back on the offensive in the top of the seventh as Jones went deep with a two-run homer. A few insurance runs sounded nice, but Dinsdale said the team was anything but complacent knowing they were just three outs away from the win.
“I think, if anything, it might have maybe amped them up a little bit more,” Dinsdale said of the team’s mood. “I don’t think they were calm, cool and collected at all. I think they were ready to win and if we won this one, this would be the furthest we’ve gone so I think they were really ready for that distinction.”
Camdenton got the first out with a strikeout. Then, the Tigers made their run. Senior pitcher Haile Farris was in the circle for the Lakers and there was no reason to believe she could not finish the job after keeping Ozark scoreless for four straight innings with just a few scattered hits besides the two home runs.
“I think they had a few more ground balls that got through that did not get through in the first couple of innings,” Dinsdale noted. “We kind of saw that they could hit throughout the entire game so we were trying to get them to chase and they are a well-executing team so you cannot get them to chase that much.”
Farris, who had put up over 230 strikeouts on the year averaging about 10 strikeouts per game, finished the night allowing seven hits while walking two batters and striking out six respectively.
“She had a great year. If you look at our six seniors, I don’t think we would be anywhere near them (Ozark) if we did not have those six seniors,” Dinsdale said. “Haile’s pitching, if she is settled in and throwing good, then we don’t have to worry about much of anything. Today, she pitched good and there was nothing to hang her head about. They just got the barrel on the ball and when we play teams like this, that is going to happen.”
Jones led the Laker offense with three of the team’s 11 hits and three RBIs. Emma Rakes, Farris, Fayth and Webster had two hits each and Kylee Moore and Haley Wheat produced a hit each. Fayth, Uthe and Webster each provided an RBI as well.
“I could not be more happy. In a sectional game for us to get six runs, that is great and we are going up against a state quality team,” Dinsdale remarked. “I knew we were capable of putting that up so I was happy with what came out.”
As is the case with any season, it is always tough to not only see the year come to an end but say goodbye to the senior class. Camdenton finished its 2018 season 19-9 with its second Ozark Conference title and third straight district title.
“I told them I was really proud of them. They played well the last couple of games and their enthusiasm and intensity all the way through practice and their games have been fantastic,” the coach said. “I thought we played really good tonight and we just ran into a really good team.”
There is also plenty to smile about looking at the past four years as well. Time will soon tell what the next group of Lakers have in store.
“I think this group of seniors have won over 90 games in the last four years so that is phenomenal. It makes coaching fun and easy,” Dinsdale noted. “I think next year might be a little more of a rebuilding stage. We’ll be a lot younger next year and will only have one or two seniors so it will be a transition and a little change of pace.”