Van Buren softball wins first state championship with 11-4 victory over Clopton
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- In a season full of history, there was one more moment the Van Buren softball team will never forget.
One by one players ran through a tunnel of their most loyal fans, which led to an even bigger celebration with their closest friends and family outside of the Killian Softball Complex on Saturday.
Summer Shockley had tears in her eyes, but they were full of joy after her latest show of brilliance. For as many big hits as the Lady Dawgs' senior standout has had this postseason, it was the final one in her high school career that turned out to be the biggest.
With the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning of a two-run game, Shockley laced a three-run double down the left-field line to put the game out of reach as Van Buren claimed the MSHSAA Class 1 state championship with an 11-4 win over Clopton.
"That's what you dream of as a little kid to get to the state championship with bases loaded, two outs and you clear the bases," said Shockley, who finished with four RBIs, scored three times and was a home run shy of the cycle.
"It's just amazing that God has blessed me with the ability to do this and the ability to be here in this moment."
It was Van Buren's first softball state championship since the program began some 40 years ago, and the school's first state title since the boys basketball team took home the trophy in 1992.
It also sends Van Buren's three seniors -- Shockley, Kiley Staley and Hannah Truncone -- out on top.
"It's something you won't ever forget. How else would you want to go out?" Staley said. "It's the best way you can imagine in my book."
Van Buren (21-5) had six of its 12 hits in a six-run sixth to solidify its lead in a game they never trailed.
With one out, speedy Morgan Shockley beat out her third bunt single of the weekend, stole second and came home on Truncone's base hit. Courtney Tripp and Jenny Morey sandwiched singles around a strikeout before Staley walked to score Truncone and push the Lady Dawgs' lead to 7-3.
Staley's walk also kept the bases loaded for Summer Shockley, who took two balls before lining her double past Clopton's left fielder.
"You can't rank that one up there with any of the other one's she's had this year," Van Buren coach Jack Childress said of Shockley's hit. "It's just too big and in a big-game situation it doesn't get any better than that."
That was only the ending to a Van Buren offense that dominated from start to finish.
Morey, the Lady Dawgs' leadoff hitter, singled the fourth pitch of the game, stole second and third in two pitches and gave her team the lead on Staley's RBI double. Summer Shockley followed with an RBI triple to nearly the same spot in left before Sydnee Sanders groundout gave her ample time to score.
"I wouldn't want anyone else following me," Summer Shockley said. "Almost every time I get on base I get moved over and it's because of her. She's been a great teammate."
Sanders reached on the play, which was ruled a fielder's choice after the Hawks' throw home was too late, and scored two batters later on Morgan Shockley's RBI single for a 4-0 lead.
"You talk about having momentum, having confidence at the beginning of the game, well, that was the biggest boost of it we've had all season," said Childress, in his first season at Van Buren.
"I'm just happy as can be that God put me in a situation to help coach these wonderful girls to doing something they'll never forget."
The Lady Dawgs needed more, however, as Clopton (20-8) answered with two runs off of back-to-back bases-loaded walks in the bottom half of the first to cut Van Buren's lead in half.
Shockley erased one of the runs when she singled, moved up to second on Sydnee Sanders' sacrifice bunt and trotted all the way home after a Clopton error on the very same play in the third.
But the Hawks didnt' go away.
Kaitlyn Kuntz' two-out infield single started a rally as she stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a passed ball that made it 5-3.
Clopton had a chance to add more an inning later when Maya Street doubled to lead off the fifth. She reached third on a sacrifice bunt, but was stranded as Summer Shockley reached back to get two of her seven strikeouts and end the threat.
"I knew they would come back and it took me a little bit to get things right," said Summer Shockley, who walked six and allowed seven hits, both season highs.
"Once we started hitting, making plays I found my groove and we started doing our thing."
The Hawks managed two more hits and a run off Van Buren's ace in the sixth, but that was as close as they got.
Shockley needed just 10 more pitches to retire the side in order as her teammates and coaches mobbed her in the circle.
"For everything that Summer and these seniors have given us, they deserve this more than words can describe," Morey said. "They've laid a foundation here at Van Buren. It's something we'll be forever grateful for.
"As much as we're going to miss them, I hope we can make them proud by going out and playing our hardest next year."