REPUBLIC – She may not have known it, but with the game on the line, Ozark’s Hannah Carvel was exactly who coach Yancey Little wanted at the plate.
Tied 2-all in the eighth inning, the junior laced a single to left, plating courtesy runner Bre Johnson and lifting Ozark to a 3-2 win over Republic in the Class 4 sectional round on Thursday night.
“She’s one of those kids that is pretty steady,” Little said of Carvel, a first-year varsity player. “She doesn’t show a lot of emotion, just a real even-keel kid. She swings the bat pretty well for us. It was just a clutch at-bat.”
Little wasn’t the only one who had confidence in Carvel.
“My teammates said I was going to (get a hit),” Carvel said. “It just happened.”
Carvel’s game-winner puts Ozark in the state quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years. The Lady Tigers (27-3) will host Jefferson City (18-7) at noon Saturday, with a trip to the final four on the line
Jefferson City pulled off a 1-0 upset of Blue Springs (29-2) on Thursday night, avenging a 15-0 loss to Blue Springs in September.
For Ozark, Thursday night’s win over Republic rested largely on the shoulders of pitcher Brittany Nimmo, who struck out 19 batters and fanned the side five different innings. The North Carolina State commit allowed only four hits and walked one.
Ozark gave Nimmo some early run support, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning on Lauren Chambers’ two-run homer. They threatened to add more in the third and fourth, but Republic sophomore pitcher Rachel Rook pitched her way out of a pair of jams. Ozark left two runners on in the third and stranded them loaded in the fourth.
Rook allowed only six hits on the night, walking four and striking out nine.
At the time, Little feared the missed opportunities might come back to bite his team.
“Any time you get a chance to score runs, you better do it,” Little said. “As you move farther and farther into the state playoffs, runs are going to be more of a premium. They obviously were tonight.”
Trailing 2-0, Republic (24-6) battled back against Nimmo. Abby Norris banged a solo homer off the scoreboard in right in the fifth. Lauren Strobel doubled home the game-tying run in the sixth.
“We could have folded our tent down early when we were down 2-0 against a real good pitcher, but my girls battled back and kept chipping away,” said Republic coach Lee Dishman. “We just didn’t get any breaks tonight.”
With the game tied in the seventh, Ozark had runners at the corners and only one out, but Rook induced a pair of groundouts to escape trouble. In the eighth, after a lead-off walk and sacrifice, Carvel delivered the game-winning hit.