“When the wolves are hungry, the wolves, they’ll eat,” snarls the chorus “Wolves” by the band American Aquarium.
This past weekend, the Wolves of the Pleasant Hill High School softball team feasted on every team in their path, including top-seeded Lincolnwood, en route to a regional championship.
With an enrollment of just 78 students, Pleasant Hill had never won a regional in softball, or any girls sport, were seeded eighth in the 10-team sub-sectional and had a roster made up of eight freshmen and one senior. None of that mattered this week though as the Wolves won three straight games, two of which were on the road, with a total of 30 runs scored.
After dispatching ninth seeded Brussels 10-0 on Wednesday, Pleasant Hill made the nearly two hour trip from Pike County to Raymond to take on the Lancers, who were ranked first in the subsectional.
The home field advantage worked well for Lincolnwood early on as they scored first after Cassie Krager singled, stole second, moved to third and home on a pair of errors by the Wolves. Brittany Slightom doubled after Krager’s single and moved to third on an error, but Pleasant Hill managed to get the last out of the inning and keep the lead at 1-0 in the Lancers’ favor.
Pleasant Hill answered in the top of the second, though, putting together a three-run inning off three singles and two errors to take the lead. The Wolves made it 4-1 on a single by Dawn McKinnon in the top of the third, but Lincolnwood got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Sidney Glick doubled, moved to third on an error and scored on a double by Krager.
The two-run lead tripled an inning later as Pleasant Hill scored four runs on four singles and an attempted fielder’s choice, chasing Lincolnwood starter Taryn Millburg from the mound after three and a third innings, with Paige Rainwater coming on in relief.
The Wolves made it 9-2 when McKinnon led off the fifth with a solo home run, one of just two hits Rainwater would allow in her three and two-thirds innings of work.
Despite stemming the Wolves’ offensive output, the Lancers were unable to make up much ground as they were held to three hits over the next three innings after Pleasant Hill increased their lead to seven: a single by Marisa Webb in the fourth, a single by Brittany Slightom in the fifth and a solo home run by Paige Rainwater in the sixth that made it 9-3.
Down to their final three outs of the season, Lincolnwood tried to rally, but Pleasant Hill starter McKinley Lowe set the Lancers down in order in the bottom of the seventh to move the Wolves on to Friday’s championship game against Carrollton.
Pleasant Hill outhit the Lancers 11-7 in the game, with four players picking up at least two hits, led by Hannah Hill with a 3-for-4 day. Lincolnwood had two players with a pair of hits, Brittany Slightom and Cassie Krager, an appropriate send off for two senior players who have given so much to the Lincolnwood softball program.
The contributions of Slightom and Krager will be missed, along with those of fellow seniors Sophie Rainwater and Katelyn Payne, but Lincolnwood not only brings back a glut of talent from this year’s team, but will receive an influx of skilled players from Morrisonville (next year’s co-op partner) as well. Those factors combined with the lessons learned in a very challenging 2021 season could result in the Lancers vying for their first regional title in softball since 2016.
In the meantime, they can take solace in the fact that they weren’t the only ones who couldn’t solve the Cinderella-story of the Pleasant Hill Wolves. Fourth seeded Carrollton was the next team to feel the claws of the underdogs as they fell 11-8 in the regional championship on the Hawks’ home field.
Pleasant Hill again gave up the first run in the bottom of the first, before scoring seven in the second and three in the third to take a 10-1 lead. That advantage lasted until the fifth, when Carrollton scored three runs, followed by a sixth inning that saw Pleasant Hill tack on a solo run and the Hawks score four to cut the lead to 11-8. That was as close as Carrollton would get, though, as Pleasant Hill moved on to the sectional semifinal against Valmeyer on Tuesday, June 8.
June 3 at Raymond
Pleasant Hill 031 410 0 9 11 5
Lincolnwood 101 001 0 3 7 5
Pl. Hill IP R ER H K BB
Lowe 7 3 3 7 6 1
L’wood IP R ER H K BB
Millburg 3.1 8 5 9 3 2
Rainwater 3.2 1 1 2 5 1
Multiple Hits: Pleasant Hill - Hannah Hill 3-4, McKinley Lowe 2-4, Maddison Daniels 2-4, Dawn McKinnon 2-4; Lincolnwood - Brittany Slightom 2-3, Cassie Krager 2-4. 2B: Lincolnwood - Sidney Glick 1, Cassie Krager 1, Brittany Slightom 1. HR: Pleasant Hill - Dawn McKinnon 1; Lincolnwood - Paige Rainwater 1. Runs: Lincolnwood - Sidney Glick 1, Cassie Krager 1, Paige Rainwater 1. RBI: Cassie Krager 1, Paige Rainwater 1.
Record: Lincolnwood (13-9).