Kansas City, Mo. — Three Rivers advanced to the winner's bracket in the Region XVI Tournament on Friday.
First, the Lady Raiders started their day with a 9-1 win over St. Charles in five innings. They followed up with an 8-6 win against Jefferson College.
With the wins, Three Rivers secured 40 wins for the second straight year, and will play Crowder in the finals of the winner's bracket at noon Saturday in the double elimination tournament.
"Back-to-back 40 win seasons is huge, I think. This year especially, with as few games as we've played. Forty wins, personally, that's pretty satisfying because I know all the hard work they've put in to get to this point," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said. "Just all that hard work paid off, and that's a nice round number that a lot of teams get to, so you'll take that anytime you can get it."
St. Charles (2-35) scored in the first inning on a single up the middle, but the second-seeded Lady Raiders (40-7) shut down the No. 7 seed for the rest of the game.
Allison Pingel drove in a run in the first inning with an RBI single to left field. Zoe Bisby knocked in two runs with a similar play, and the rout was on. Prior to the consecutive singles, Jenny Morey, Kristyn Carpenter and Gracie King were each walked to load the bases with no one out.
Carpenter and King both drove in a run in the second inning with 6-3 ground outs. In the third, Kryslyn Colvin drove in Bisby with a double, and Katie Young sent Colvin home with a single. King brought in two runs with a single to center field, scoring Young and Carpenter.
Defensively, the Lady Raiders went for back-to-back 1-2-3 innings after allowing the first run. Saje Kurpiela picked up the win, allowing three hits and an unearned run. She struck out 10 and walked one in her 18th win of the season as the Lady Raiders took care of business.
"You just don't want to start your tournament off being sloppy. … We actually came out and I thought we were ready to go and we hit a batter, made an error and then they get a hit, so we're down 1-0, you know? After that, we tightened it up and played pretty solid the rest of the game," Null said.
In the game against third-seeded Jefferson, both offenses came alive midway through the game. Trailing 5-2, Three Rivers scored six runs and batted around in the fifth inning to take the lead. King batted in the first two runs with a double into left field. Allison Pingel scored on a wild pitch, and Lana Reed drove in a run to keep things rolling. Colvin drove in the final run with a double to right-center field.
"That second came was kind of back and forth," Null said. "We got on them and they came back. We cut it to 3-2 and then they made it 5-2, and we had our big inning. We go 1, 1, 6, it's just crazy."
Jefferson got a run back in the seventh with a solo homer to straightaway center, but the Three Rivers defense held and moved into Saturday's winner's bracket.
"We knew we were going to have our hands full. … It seemed like every time we gave up the lead we battled right back," Null said. "We just showed a lot of fight until we had our big inning there and kind of gave ourselves a little bit of room.
"... You get down 5-2 to a good team like that, a lot of times it doesn't end up well for you."
Abbey Gann picked up the win, pitching five innings and allowing seven hits, five earned runs and a walk. She struck out three. Kurpiela picked up the save with two innings of work. She allowed three hits, an earned run and struck out one.
Pingel went 2 for 3 with a run scored. King finished with two RBIs. In game one, Pingel went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Bisby batted in two runs, and King brought in three runs with a 1-for-2 day.
Three Rivers will face top-seeded Crowder in the winner's bracket. First pitch is set for noon on Saturday.
The All-Region XVI teams were announced, and seven Three Rivers players received the honors. Gann, King and Carpenter earned First Team selections, while Kurpiela, Pingel, Reed and Morey were Second Team selections.
"I was happy for all of the kids. I mean, our region is pretty loaded, so for seven of them to get recognized is definitely a good thing for our program," Null said.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic