Baker pitches Wildcats to upset
Emily Baker's pitching made second-seeded Piper's bats look more like toothpicks Monday in a 1-0 upset in the 4A Regional Softball Tournament played at the De Soto USD 232 baseball and softball complex.
The senior pitching wizard needed just 70 pitches to diffuse Piper's high-octane offense and move her team into the regional semifinals Wednesday against Sumner Academy (11-10).
Baker scattered just five hits and struck out two Pirates. Just as important, she didn't walk a single batter.
Baker was quick to point out she did get a little help from her teammates. The senior referred to the Wildcats' loss in a double header against the Pirates earlier in the season when the team committed 10 errors.
"I was nervous," she said. "But my teammates made plays behind me. Because of that, I was able to stay close and avoided the hard hit.
"We had a ton of errors the last time we played them. But we knew coming into this game that we were capable of beating Piper if we played good, solid defense."
As the game's intensity built from inning to inning, Baker appeared to get stronger.
"I just tried to block out all of the noise," Baker said. "I try to stay in control and keep the ball low. But it really does help when my team makes plays like they did today."
Baker avoided drama throughout much of the game by facing four or fewer batters in five of the seven innings she worked. Even when she did put more than one base runner on in the second and third innings, Baker and her teammates came through.
Piper starting pitcher Allison Brown lined a one-out single down the third baseline, getting the Pirates going in the second inning. But Baker struck out Misti Bannister in the next at bat on three pitches, getting the second out of the inning. Baker also did her job on the next at-bat by getting Rayme Nead to hit a weak grounder to third baseman Trisha King.
Nead was ruled safe, however, when Wildcat first baseman Jen Davis dropped the ball, and the Pirates had runners at first and second for the first time in the game.
Baker got the break she needed in the inning when Kristy Hopkins dribbled a grounder to third base and King stepped for the out.
In the third inning, Piper had the top of the order up but couldn't get anything going in their first two at bats.
Amanda Woolery grounded out to second base. Courtney Ruzsa then put Baker at ease when she lined a shot right to Wildcat shortstop Jara Mori.
But back-to-back singles to centerfield gave Piper life. Baker again ended the drama when she got Eileen Treff to fly out to left field.
The Wildcats did their damage in the top half of the third when Mori ripped a two-out single to centerfield. Baker then helped herself with a single to leftfield, putting runners on first and second.
Allie Heinen was credited for the game-winning RBI when the Pirate second baseman misplayed her hard grounder up the middle and Mori came home.
"I wasn't looking to hit her home," Heinen said. "I just wanted to get a hit. They (Mori and Baker) had to get on base for me to be able to do my part. They were a cocky team, so I'm glad we were able to beat them."
The Wildcats had excellent opportunities to open their lead in the fifth and seventh innings. But Piper took advantage of some good defense on its own, getting out of the innings.
In the fifth frame, Nicole Husted led off with an infield single to short. King then singled to right center, putting runners on first and second with no outs.
Mori reached base on a fielder's choice, but, unfortunately for the Wildcats; Husted was thrown out at home for the first out in the inning.
Baker then ripped a sharp line drive back to the pitcher, who doubled off Mori, ending the threat.
In the seventh stanza, Lauren Hampton lined a one-out single to centerfield, and Husted walked to put runners at first and second.
The Pirates stayed in the game when Ruzsa caught a short fly to right by King and doubled Husted off at first.
De Soto spread the wealth by getting hits from six different batters. Piper meanwhile had three batters combine for five hits.
Mori and Heinen each went 1-for-3 in the game and worked together to secure the winning run. Also collecting hits were Baker, Hampton, Husted and King.
Cortney Channel and Kathy Kiblinger each scored two runs apiece. Brown, meanwhile laid a hit out there as well.
Brown scattered six Wildcat hits and struck out three batters in 80 pitches of work. She also gave up one base on balls and an unearned run.
De Soto (8-9) after started the season 0-6, played Sumner Academy (11-10) on Wednesday, but the results were not available at press time. Piper's regular season ended with a 16-5 mark.