Kristyn Carpenter clutched up to end Three Rivers softball's sophomore day on a high note. With the Raiders ahead 4-2, North Central Missouri had two on and the winning run at the plate. Taylor McQueen blasted a liner on a 1-0 pitch. Carpenter reacted in the blink of an eye, snagging a ball that might've driven in the tying run had it reached the outfield. The play ended the game and moved Three Rivers' winning streak to 18 straight games.
"Clutch. Carpenter played D all series. I mean, her defense was outstanding. Their coaches were talking about it all day," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said.
Three Rivers began the day with a 9-3 win on the front end of a Region XVI doubleheader. It's the seventh time in a row Three Rivers has swept a series.
Prior to the games, Three Rivers recognized its eight sophomores, Allison Pingel, Gracie Gargac, Kirstien Loman, Lindsey Elfrink, Sophie Wunderlich, Gracie King, Katie Young and Carpenter, for their contributions to the program, which included helping Three Rivers have its best season in program history when it reached the NJCAA World Series a season ago.
Lana Reed found her rhythm at the plate in game one. She went 3 for 4 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored. Young went 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs in a strong showing from the last spot in the order. Reed had been trying to get back in her groove since rejoining the team after missing time due to the basketball team's run to the NJCAA Tournament.
"It's starting to come together finally," Reed said. "Yesterday, I struggled bad. I was 0 for 5 or 6. Today, they were just telling me that my timing was late, and when I finally started doing what they were telling me to do, it made a difference. And it was a lot better than 0 for 4, 5 or whatever."
Three Rivers held a three-hit advantage, finishing with 14 to the Pirates' 11, but the defense kept North Central Missouri from stringing together hits consistently. Abbey Gann allowed nine hits — the most she's given up all season — in five innings but limited the damage to three earned runs to go along with five strikeouts.
Adrienne Stucker pitched two shutout innings to finish the game, allowing two hits with one strikeout.
"Adrienne came in that first game and was a nice change of pace," Null said. "She had them all messed up, up there. I was very proud of our defense and our pitching all weekend for the most part."
Game two was tightly contested as both defenses were on point. Reed again breathed life into the office with a double in the second after both teams went scoreless in the first inning. Bisby advanced her to third with an unassisted groundout to first, and Loman drove her in for the game's first run with an RBI double.
Morey received some assistance from the Pirates' catcher in the top of the third to give Three Rivers a two-run cushion. She laid down a bunt and raced to first base, causing a rushed throw from near the plate that sailed past the first baseman and gave Morey time to reach second. Carpenter followed up with a single, and Morey scored after the catcher obstructed her path to the plate.
Both teams went scoreless for the next three innings, and Three Rivers tacked on two more runs in the seventh thanks to a pair of errors from the Pirates.
Payton Craig halved the deficit with an RBI triple before scoring on an error in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. Carpenter's game-sealing catch followed, finishing off another series sweep for Three Rivers.
Saje Kurpiela had it going in the circle once again. She was credited with the win, allowing three hits, a walk and one earned run in a complete game. She added five strikeouts for a 1.00 ERA.
"Saje is kind of turning into a ground ball pitcher. We're getting a lot of ground balls and shots out there," Null said. "The pitching's been solid. … A play here or there and she probably has a shutout. She gave us a chance."
Null picked up wins number 100 and 101 at Three Rivers with the sweep.
"That was a big region sweep against a pretty good team," Null said. "I was super proud of our kids. They gave it everything they've got."
The Raiders will get two days off before traveling to St. Louis Community College for a doubleheader, starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic