Van Buren softball rallies, shocks Salisbury to earn shot at Class 1 state title

Saturday, October 22, 2016
Van Buren's Kiley Staley (1) celebrates with her teammates after the Lady Dawgs defeated Salisbury in a MSHSAA Class 1 state semifinal Friday at the Killian Softball Complex in Springfeld, Missouri.
Ben Striker ~ Daily American Republic

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Van Buren softball coach Jack Childress was unsure how his team would respond after giving up two runs in the second inning of its MSHSAA Class 1 state semifinal on Friday.

His uncertainties were erased when the Lady Dawgs chipped away at the deficit over the next two innings and absolutely erased it when they put Morgan Shockley, one of their fastest runners, on third with one out in the top of the seventh inning.

Courtney Tripp’s slowly hit grounder to the left side gave Shockley plenty of time to sprint home and slide head first across the plate as Van Buren rallied to defeat Salisbury 3-2 at the Killian Softball Complex in Springfield, Missouri.

The win secured Van Buren a spot in today’s Class 1 state championship game against Clopton at 10 a.m.

“I just knew I had to get in and when Courtney came up I just looked at her and we both knew,” Shockley said. “I knew I was in as soon as it was hit.”

Shockley, a sophomore and Van Buren’s No. 6 hitter, led off the fourth with the game tied at 2-all and laid a bunt down the third base line. She beat the throw and then took second when she looked up and realized no one was covering the bag.

“Most of the time when I bunt I realize nobody’s thinking about you taking off, so I did,” Shockley added. “I almost went three but I figured I’d let my team get me in.”

She took third anyway on a passed ball during the next at-bat before the first out was recorded.

Tripp then stepped to the plate and fouled off two bunt attempts before her grounder to the shortstop, which was bobbled, allowed Shockley to score.

“I just thought, ‘I’ve got to get it down, anything down’ because I had all the faith that she would score,” Tripp said. “It wasn’t much but it was just enough and definitely the biggest hit for me and this team so far.”

Van Buren’s last four hitters in the lineup were a combined 0-for-7 with a walk prior to the seventh inning, which left Childress nearly speechless after their final charge.

“It all happened so fast. I looked up and there we are with a runner at third and a chance to take this game,” Childress said. “It was amazing that the bottom of this lineup that didn’t do a anything all day came through.”

Salisbury (19-4) managed one more hit before Van Buren starting pitcher Summer Shockley got a strikeout, induced a pop out and fielded a ground ball to get the final out.

Van Buren mobbed their senior pitcher near the circle as a celebration ensued.

“It’s amazing to know that we can come back and compete with one of the best teams in the state on a stage like this,” Summer Shockley said. “To travel here with your family and basically your whole town then to perform like we did is like something out of a dream.”

Summer Shockley's 12-inning scoreless and no-hit streak, dating back to Van Buren’s state playoff against Norwood, was broken when Marchya Jackson singled with two outs in the second.

It turned out to hurt the Lady Dawgs even more after Jackson stole second and took third on a passed ball. Shockley walked Abigail Gebhardt the following at-bat before the Panthers attempted a double steal one pitch later.

Van Buren catcher Lenae Flowers attempted to catch Gebhardt at second before Jackson took off from third, but her throw to shortstop Jenny Morey was high and sailed into right field as Jackson slid home for a 1-0 lead.

Gebhardt then stole third and trotted home as another Flowers’ throw went over the head of Van Buren third baseman Jalynn Morgan.

There was vindication for Flowers in the fourth, however, as the Lady Dawgs mounted their comeback when Kiley Staley reached on an error to lead off the frame and Summer Shockley followed with a walk. Both runners moved up on Sydnee Sanders’ sacrifice bunt setting the stage for Flowers, who laced a single up the middle to score both runs and tie the game.

“I know that it wasn’t all on me, but it hurt. I got really down on myself,” Flowers said of her second-inning errors. “When I came up to bat I forgot about it all, just relaxed and came up with a hit I never imagined I’d have, and one that gave my team a chance to win this game.”

It was the only thing her battery mate needed to get back in her groove.

Summer Shockley retired the next 12 batters she faced in order and struck out 11 in a three-hitter to get her 15th win in the circle.

“Once we scored those two we were just back to our normal selves, we were hyped up in the dugout, but I give the credit to Lenae,” Summer Shockley said. “She doesn’t get enough credit for how good she is for me behind the plate or how hard she works in her at-bats.

“She put those couple mistakes past her and I was very proud of the way she picked herself and this team up.”