Holcomb, Risco to meet in Class 1 District 1 softball championship once again

Holcomb's Ava Gurley throws in the ball during the Hornets' semifinal game against Campbell Monday. Gurley connected for three hits, two runs and two RBIs.
Christian Johnson, Delta Dunklin Democrat

HOLCOMB – Each of the four teams left to take the field in the C1D1 softball tournament played lights out Monday, but after some bursts of momentum, several big hits at the right time and the wind blowing the ball right into the gloves of watchful defenders, higher seeds came out on top.

First-seeded Holcomb defeated fifth-seeded Campbell 11-1, and second-seeded Risco defeated third-seeded South Pemiscot 5-1.

Holcomb and Risco will compete in the championship Tuesday at 4:30. It will be Holcomb's fifth championship appearance in a row and a chance for the Hornets to win their third in a row. It will be Risco's third consecutive appearance, and a chance to win their first having lost to Holcomb in 2021 and Oran in 2022.

“It's just about consistency,” Holcomb coach Matt Casper said. “That's the biggest thing – consistency and talent. The hard work they put in shows, and we've had a lot of talented girls come through who put in the dedication and time that is required to give themselves these opportunities.”

Holcomb 11, Campbell 1

Despite the lopsided final score, Holcomb's win did not come easily.

“It's good to get that win and advance to the championship,” Casper said. “We knew this would be not be an easy tournament, and the teams are getting better every year. It was a battle, and hats off to Campbell. They did a good job of preventing us from breaking out there early.”

The now 22-8 Hornet offense was held to just four runs over four innings, but the host's defense managed to prevent a single run by Campbell over that time as well. In fact, it was a fifth-inning breakaway that eventually sealed the fate of the game.

Holcomb junior Jaden Bowen pitched a complete game. She allowed four hits, one walk and an earned run while striking out three batters.

“Defense was extremely solid today,” Casper said. “That's what we needed today, struggling at the plate a little bit. Jaden Bowen did a great job in the circle, and the defense backed her up.”

Campbell's Destiny Earnheart singled Kamryn Weeks home in the top of the fifth for their first and only run of the game. Though the Camels managed only four hits, their defense stood strong to keep in the game until nearly the end.

Campbell's Chloe Matthews smiles as she makes her way to first base after being hit by the pitch in the Camels' semifinal game against Holcomb.
Christian Johnson, Delta Dunklin Democrat

“The final score doesn't show just what the game was like,” Campbell coach Scotty Umfress said. “Holcomb had to play to win, and my girls gave me everything I wanted. We had bases loaded in the fifth inning, got one out of it, and throughout the game we just never got the right hit.”

However, Holcomb answered that with seven of their own.

Chloe Hendrix grounded out but brought home Ella Lemings, kickstarting the scoring spree of the bottom of the fifth. Libbey Callis eventually doubled to score Emma Bader, Jasmine White brought home Callis, Katelynn Sweaney scored White and Kaetlyn Danley hammered a line drive to bring in Ava Gurley.

“It was a big inning for us,” Casper said. “The back of the order did what they had to to get on base, then the top showed some patience and gave us the opportunity to close the game out.”

Finally, with two outs, sophomore Emma Bader made it to first on a fly ball that brought Danley home, ending the game by run rule.

“My seniors, Chloe Matthews, McKenzie Sevier and Alexis Keirsey, are team leaders,” Umfress said. “I'm glad my young freshmen got to see them and learn from them, because out of all my years coaching, those three are great leaders and I'll miss them.”

Risco 5, South Pemiscot 1

Similarly, Risco and South Pemiscot's semifinal matchup was a battle of attrition and an exposition of talented pitchers and defense.

The game went by scoreless for two innings, and South Pemiscot struck first as Gracyn Trammel made it to first capitalizing on an error, which also brought Jayleigh Leathers home.

South Pemiscot's Jayleigh Leathers rounds second base in a semifinal game against Risco Monday.
Christian Johnson, Delta Dunklin Democrat

Risco blanked another frame in the third, but managed four runs to take the lead in the fourth inning. Lydia Albritton reached first on an error and singled Jaelynn Presley home. Aliyah Rojas hit a fly ball to left field to bring home Albritton and Ashlynn Presley. Finally, Carlie Stephens scored on a ground ball hit by Landri Baker.

“We eventually got people on base, started hitting the ball and got some timely hits,” Risco coach Justin Earnheart said. “I don't even know how many times this season we've gotten bases loaded, then only got one run or none at all. But we made the most of our opportunities today.”

As defenses worked on both sides, the only score left in the game came as Risco's Albritton found home plate again with a single hit by Rojas.

Risco's Jaelynn Presley pitched for the first five innings and allowed only three hits and a run while striking out six batters before being relieved by Carlie Stephens for the last two innings. Stephens also only gave up one hit and struck out three.

“Jaelynn Presley on the mound did exactly what she needed to do, and Stephens shut the door the last couple innings,” Earnheart said. “That was the strategy going in trying to keep Stephens fresh for tomorrow.”

Risco pitcher Jaelynn Presley turns to throw out a runner at first base in a semifinal game against South Pemiscot.
Christian Johnson, Delta Dunklin Democrat

Abigail Edwards pitched a complete game for South Pemiscot. She allowed only one earned run while allowing five hits and striking out nine batters.

“We played good,” South Pemiscot coach Lance Crawford said. “We had one inning where we gave them a couple of extra outs, and that's been our downfall this year. But they did a great job of not throwing it away, because that's where we take advantage. They were prepared for us today.”

“I'm really proud of our one senior hitting today, and our pitcher is a junior,” he continued. “My senior who played is actually my daughter, Ashley Crawford. She was one-for-two, so of our few hits she had one of the. She's been a leader of the team, and I can't say enough good things about her. I'm really looking forward to the next couple of years.”

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