PITSBURG – The Franklin Monroe Jets softball team had its hands full on Tuesday in the opening round of the state tournament.
Twin Valley South had hung tough in a loss to the Jets earlier in the season, and this night was the same. To borrow a phrase from FM coach Mike Morris, who frequently tells his pitcher to “squeeze ’em out” when she has two strikes on the batter – the Jets had to squeeze out a win against the Panthers.
The game was closely contested until the last out. The Jets scored the go-ahead run when Taylor Armstrong crossed the plate on a Chloe Peters sacrifice in the bottom of the sixth inning. Peters was awarded the game ball afterwards. This broke up a 1-1 tie, and after the Jets retired the Panthers in order in the top of the seventh it meant a 2-1 victory.
The Jets got on the board first in the second inning when Kinsey Goins scored on a hit by Chloe Henninger. But in a theme that would continue through the night – the Jets had the bases loaded but only yielded a single run. Unofficially they would strand a total of 11 base runners on the night.
Franklin Monroe would have the bases loaded again in the fifth but couldn’t manage a run and let South off the hook.
South was not on base as frequently but made the most of its chances. Sarah Denlinger hit a triple in the fourth and scored on a ground ball.
South threatened again in the fifth with a lead-off double by Kelcie Schafer. But after a ground out and then a strike out by Emilee Morris, the next batter was intentionally walked. And with runners on first and third the batter hit a dribbler back to the pitcher for an easy third out.
Emilee Morris had a good night, allowing just a single run and striking out nine batters.
“I was a little nervous coming into this game,” Coach Morris said. “They played us tough earlier in the year, and Coach Randle has them playing well. They came at us for a reason – we had struggled with them earlier. We left way too many runners on base. We hit too many popups, and early in the game we did not bunt well. But our defense was sound – you play good defense, you are going to win a lot of games.”
Next up is Tri-County North, who the Jets beat 8-5 in league play.
“We have to get focused on them,” Coach Morris said. “They are going to hit – and so we are going to have to hit. We have to get our bats out and put the ball in play. We have to get rid the popups and play small ball, which is our game. Get those bunts and play solid defense.”