by Jeremy Benson, GrandRiverConference.com
Last season, the Polo Panthers lost to Maysville 6-5 in the District Championship. Maysville went on to win the State Championship. The previous season, they also lost in the District Championship game to Sherwood. Coach Becky Ross told me that they were tired of trophies with the number two in their trophy case. One of their goals this season was to get past that hurdle and win the district title. They did that last week when they knocked off Gallatin 2-1 in 8 innings.
With that hurdle finally surpassed, the Panthers now had their next goal set in their sights. They wanted to be the first softball team in school history to advance to the state semifinals. A win over King City today would fulfill that goal.
Polo came to bat first in front of a large crowd that had gathered for both sides. Kenley Moore started the game with a leadoff triple to help set the table for the heart of Polo's lineup. Chloe Gilbert took King City pitcher Emberlyn Medsker deep into the count. She fouled off several pitches before a towering blast cleared the fence to put the Panthers up 2-0. Hanna Vaught joined in on the action, and made it back-to-back home runs with a shot that just cleared the fence. But the Panthers were not done. Mya Heil doubled. After Kendyl Fitzwater reached on an error by Medsker, Haley Barnett drove both of them in with a double. Valorie Gabrielli followed with an RBI single.
Emily Schmidt and Jade Misel both grounded out, but Polo still had some 2-out magic in them. Moore doubled in Gabrielli. Gilbert and Vaught were both intentionally walked to load the bases. Moore then scored on a wild pitch. Hiel ended the 1st inning scoring with a 2-run double scoring Gilbert and courtesy runner Emersyn Parker. The Panthers had plated 10 runners before the King City Wildkats came to the plate.
Hanna Vaught didn't waste any time with the 10-0 lead and retired all three batters she faced including a strikeout. Polo would add a run in the second. Barnett led off with a double and Schmidt drover her in with a sacrifice fly. King City would get two across the plate in the bottom of the 2nd. Tacee Catlett led off with a doubled. Carleen Gilbert drove her in with a single. Gilbert would score on a Kamryn Miller hit.
The Panther's Gilbert led off the 3rd and she once again blasted it over the fence for her 2nd home run of the game. King City would get a 2-out single by Medsker, but would strand a runner. After 3, Polo led 12-2. King City scored the only run in the 4th to make it 12-3. Carleen Gilbert led off with a walk and then would score after Barnett lost a fly ball in the sun off of the bat of Miller.
Polo was looking to try to end the game in the 5th via the 10-run rule. Chloe Gilbert led off the inning. This time King City decided they were not going to let her hit another home run and intentionally walked her a 2nd time. The Panthers made them pay. Vaught and Heil and back-to back singles with Heil driving in Gilbert. Fitzwater then doubled to drive in Parker, who was running for Vaught. Polo would add on another two runs to make it 16-3. Hannah Vaught would then retire the first two hitters in the bottom of the 5th. Medsker singled to extend the game. The Catlett hit a blooper that looked like it was going to get over Fitzwater, but she made a great catch to end the game and Polo is state bound.
After the game, I caught up with Polo Coach Becky Ross and King City Coach Dottie Stoll. You can hear it along with full postgame coverage here:
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