SPRINGFIELD — Truman ace Paige Parker envisioned all sorts of celebrations that included plenty of yelling and screaming. When the moment came to finally use them, though, Parker stood silently and simply raised her arms toward the darkening sky as her teammates swarmed her.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
How sweet it was.
Parker was unhittable once again Saturday, leading Truman to its first state softball title in school history. The Patriots defeated Ozark 7-0 in the Missouri Class 4 championship at Killian Stadium.
“I don’t even know if I can describe this,” Parker said. “This has just been a dream season.”
Parker, the state’s top pitching prospect, proved why she is more than just an arm.
She can hit, too. Parker produced three run-scoring hits, leading a potent attack that came alive in the postseason.
A midseason lull, as coach Amy Temples described it, faded when it mattered most. The Patriots, 31-3, continued to do most of their damage with two outs. They scored five of their seven runs Saturday with two outs and knocked around pitchers Abbie Clanton and Brittany Nimmo to the tune of 16 baserunners.
Truman catcher and leadoff hitter Maya Coen collected three hits and reached base safely four times. Victoria Zurich added two more hits and an RBI.
“I was coming in with nerves, but once I got (in the batter’s box), I took a deep breath and told myself to be confident,” Coen said. “You only get to go through this once. You want to make it count.”
Truman tallied runs in four consecutive innings — one in the third, one in the fourth, two in the fifth and three more in the sixth.
That was more than enough for the reliable Parker, who picked up her 23rd win of the season and lowered her season ERA to a microscopic 0.41.
Parker struck 12 batters and walked none. Her defense made no errors behind her.
Grain Valley second in Class 3
A pitcher’s duel that took over the Class 3 title game appeared as if it might last for hours.
Centralia senior Meredith VanMaanen didn’t get the message.
In the seventh-inning, VanMaanen, hitting eighth in the lineup, bombed a solo home run to dead center field, igniting a three-run seventh that lifted Centralia to a 3-0 victory against Grain Valley on Saturday afternoon.
The win prevented Grain Valley from earning the first state championship in school history.
“You don’t expect that out of a No. 8 hitter,” Grain Valley coach Jim Oliver said. “She put a good turn on a good fastball.”
She was the first hitter to put good contact on a pitch from Grain Valley’s Brooklynne Simbeck, who allowed three hits in the seventh but only four prior to it.
Still, she was outdueled by Centralia ace Baylee Douglas, whose mixture of speeds prevented the Eagles from managing effective swings.
Monica Hudson, Taylor Mays and Simbeck produced the only three hits for Grain Valley, which finished the season 25-6.
“In close ballgames like that, you have to be patient at the plate and find a good pitch to hit,” Oliver said. “We struggled with that today.”