Helias advances to title game against Rock Bridge

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Haley Bartow of Helias slides into second on a two-base error in the second inning of Thursday’s game with Camdenton at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.

The Helias Lady Crusaders set the tone in the first inning Thursday night, and it sparked them to a 4-0 win over Camdenton in the semifinals of the Class 4 District 9 Tournament at the America Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.

The third-seeded Lady Lakers had their hardest-hit ball of the entire game in the top of the first, only to see it settle into the glove of Haley Bartow, who made a nice play in center field.

Then in the bottom of the frame, the second-seeded Lady Crusaders pushed across a pair of runs to put them in control.

“We had a nice first inning,” Helias coach Dan Campbell said. “We had a good start on defense and on offense.”

In the bottom of the first, Paige Bange led off with a single and one out later, went to second on a single by Taylor Pritchett.

Amber Braun came on as a courtesy runner for Pritchett, and both runners moved up on a groundout by Arielle Chambers.

So with two outs, it appeared the runners might get stranded, but Jordan Rackers laced a 1-2 pitch to left field to drive in Bange and Braun.

“That was good piece of hitting,” Campbell said. “It was a changeup and she stayed back on it, so that was nice.”

The Lady Crusaders made it 3-0 in the second when Bartow reached on a two-base error and scored on a single by Carleigh Cavender.

“It was nice to get some runs early, that always helps,” Campbell said. “You tend to settle down once you get that first one. It’s always the hardest one to get.”

Helias got its final run in the third when Chambers walked and pinch runner Alex McDonald later scored on a triple by Nicole Buschjost. Hers was the only extra-base hit for Helias, which got one hit each from eight different batters.

But the Lady Crusaders would come up empty after that, as they stranded nine runners in the game, including seven in scoring position.

“We can’t do that (tonight),” said Campbell, whose team will play top-seeded Rock Bridge at 6 p.m. for the district title. “We’re going to have to take advantage of every opportunity. (Rock Bridge) is going to be tough, we’re going to have to play well.”

The four runs were more than enough support for Pritchett, who retired the first 10 batters in order on her way to throwing a two-hitter. She struck out nine and hit one batter.

“We tell her to get ahead and let us play some defense,” Campbell said. “She’s a good enough pitcher, she’s going to get her strikeouts. Then we’ve just got to make the plays behind her.”

Helias (19-3) and Rock Bridge have split a pair of meetings this season, with the Lady Crusaders winning 2-1 in the Capital City Invitational and the Lady Bruins taking a 3-2 win in eight innings in Columbia. Rock Bridge pounded out 12 hits in a 9-2 win over fourth-seeded Jefferson City in Thursday’s other semifinal, and Campbell said he expects another tight game with the Lady Bruins tonight.

“But our girls have a lot of confidence right now,” he said. “I hope we come out with our bats alive.”

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